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Multiple Sclerosis Toxin

February 6, 2014

A bacterial toxin may trigger some cases of multiple sclerosis.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A potential trigger for MS. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Demyelination in MS. (Marvin 101/Wikipedia)

Demyelination in MS. (Marvin 101/Wikipedia)

A bacterial toxin may trigger multiple sclerosis, or MS. This according to Jennifer Linden, a postdoctoral fellow at Weill Cornell Medical College. It’s called epsilon toxin, and it’s made by a strain of bacteria rarely seen in humans. Yet Linden found that MS patients are more than ten times as likely to show signs of exposure to the toxin than the general population.

JENNIFER LINDEN (Weill Cornell Medical College):

We believe that people are being colonized in the gut by the bacteria, and then once the bacteria are in the gut, the toxin actually gets produced, and then it can get into the bloodstream to the brain.

HIRSHON:
By studying mice, her team showed that the toxin not only gets into the brain, but also kills cells that make myelin – a kind of nerve insulation that MS patients gradually lose. If the findings hold up, it’s possible that an epsilon toxin vaccine could help prevent the disease. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.