Single bacteria toxin may trigger onset and relapses of MS

A single gut bacteria may be responsible for triggering multiple sclerosis (MS) and driving its ongoing activity, according to a new study.

Scientists identified the bacteria Clostridum perfringens in very high amounts amongst the gut bacteria of people with MS. The bacteria produce epsilon toxin, which plays a role in the pathology of MS.

In a preclinical disease model, epsilon toxin allows inflammatory cells into the central nervous system by opening the brain’s blood vessels, causing demyelination.

There has been mounting evidence this bacteria’s toxins may be relevant to MS, but recent studies have failed to it amongst the microbiome. This study used highly sensitive DNA detection techniques and found that MS patients are more likely to have the toxin-producing C perfringens in their small intestines than healthy people.

It is known that in genetically susceptible people, an environmental toxin is required to trigger MS onset. C perfringens lives in the small intestine but only produces epsilon toxins for a short time during the bacteria’s growth phase, which would fit the relapsing-remitting pattern of MS.

The researchers hypothesised that “A treatment that neutralizes epsilon toxin may halt our patients’ new disease activity, far more effectively than current treatment modalities that suppress or modulate the immune system.”