Might it have been something they ate?
Race car driver Trevor Bayne, television personality Montel Williams, and Ann Romney are but a few of the celebrities among 400,000 Americans who were struck with multiple sclerosis in the prime of life. Most when diagnosed are 20 to 50 years old. Until now, why anyone contracted MS was a mystery. Now that mystery may be on its way to being solved.
More clues have emerged that MS may be triggered by the epsilon toxin produced by Clostridium perfrigens, the spore-causing bacterium that is a common cause of foodborne illness in the United States. Additional evidence that MS is triggered by this toxin produced by a common foodborne bacterium was presented by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers at the 2014 ASM Biodefense and Emerging Disease Research meeting held earlier this week in Washington, D.C.
The same team also identified the toxin-producing strain of C. perfringens in a young woman with MS in a scientific article published last October in the journal PLoS ONE.
The possibility of a food poisoning bacterium triggering the onset of MS does not end the mystery of the exact cause of the chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Some combinations of genetic and environmental factors are probably root causes of what is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, meaning one where the immune system inexplicably attacks healthy tissue.
Weill Cornell’s Jennifer Linden said the research team provided evidence that supports epsilon toxin’s ability to cause blood brain permeability, and that the epsilon toxin kills the brain’s myelin-producing cells, known as oligodendrocytes. Those are the same cells that die in MS lesions. The researchers also found epsilon toxin goes after the retinal vascular and meningeal cells that are associated with MS inflammation.
The research also found C. perfringens bacteria in 13.7 percent of 37 food samples and the epsilon toxin gene in 2.7 percent. Linden said if the toxin is the trigger for MS, it’s possible antibodies or vaccines might be developed to halt its progression or even prevent it entirely.
Correction: The original version of this article stated that actor Michael J. Fox has multiple sclerosis. He does not; he has Parkinson’s disease. Food Safety News regrets the error.© Food Safety News