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Multiple sclerosis linked to food poisoning bacterium Clostridium perfringens

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According to US researchers, food poisoning bacterium Clostridium perfringens may be implicated in Multiple sclerosis (MS).

Lab tests in mice by the team from Weill Cornell Medical College revealed a toxin made by a rare strain of Clostridium perfringens caused MS-like damage in the brain.

An earlier work by the same team, published in PLoS ONE, identified the toxin-producing strain of C. perfringens in a young woman with MS.

But experts urge caution, saying more work is needed to explore the link.

Food poisoning bacterium Clostridium perfringens may be implicated in Multiple sclerosis

Food poisoning bacterium Clostridium perfringens may be implicated in Multiple sclerosis

No-one knows the exact cause of MS, but it is likely that a mixture of genetic and environmental factors play a role.


Clostridium perfringens, found in soil and contaminated undercooked meat, comes in different strains.

Most cases of human infection occur as food poisoning – diarrhoea and stomach cramps that usually resolve within a day or so. More rarely, the bacterium can cause gas gangrene.

A particular strain of C. perfringens, Type B, which the Weill team says it identified in a human for the first time, makes a toxin that can travel through blood to the brain.

In their lab studies on rodents the researchers found that the toxin, called epsilon, crossed the blood-brain barrier and killed myelin-producing cells – the typical damage seen in MS.

Lead investigator Jennifer Linden said the findings are important because if it can be confirmed that epsilon toxin is a trigger of MS, a vaccine or antibody against the toxin might be able to halt or prevent this debilitating disease.

Jennifer Linden presented the group’s latest findings at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

Kathryn - Our health specialist likes to share with the readers the latest news from the field. Nobody understands better than her the relation between healthy mind and healthy body.