Spinal fluid toxin levels high in MS patients

Published 21 February 2022

A new study has found high levels of three toxic metabolites produced by gut bacteria in the cerebrospinal fluid and plasma samples of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The findings, published in the journal Brain, will help further scientists’ understanding of how gut bacteria can impact the course of neurological diseases by producing compounds that are toxic to nerve cells.

Previously published evidence has supported the concept that an imbalance in the gut microbiota (the organisms that live in the human intestines) may be behind a range of neurological disorders. Researchers also found that certain gut bacteria are either enriched or depleted in MS patients compared to healthy individuals, but it is so far unclear how these microbes communicate with the brain and affect the neurodegenerative disease process.

“Our findings suggest that MS patients’ gut bacteria produce and release large amounts of p-cresol-sulfate, indoxyl-sulfate and N-phenylacetylglutamine into the bloodstream, and they eventually reach the cerebrospinal fluid,” said Hye-Jin Park, one of the lead authors on the study and a research associate with the Neuroscience Initiative at the Advanced Science Research Center at the Graduate Center, CUNY (CUNY ASRC). “Once there, these toxic metabolites bathe the brain and spinal cord, and potentially play a role in the destruction of the myelin sheath that protects nerves.”