In a recent study, those with multiple sclerosis were found to be more likely to harbor antibodies for a disease toxin normal found in sheep.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide. MS affects the central nervous system (CNS) and can cause a range of symptoms – often involving problems with movement, sensation, balance, and vision.
Symptoms generally appear when an individual is in their 20s or 30s. Some can be managed, and, in some cases the progression of the disease can be slowed. However, there is still no cure. MS in an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system attacks otherwise healthy tissue – in this case, the CNS. Why the immune system should turn on itself is still not understood. Despite decades of work, the exact cause of the disease is still shrouded in mystery, though both genetic and environmental factors are thought to be involved.
Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom looked for clues about MS’s origins in a surprising place: sheep.
The first clues that sheep might provide some insight into MS came in 2013, when a team in the U.S. noticed that some people with MS had increased levels of antibodies to a toxin known as epsilon toxin (ETX). This toxin is produce by the bacterium Clostridium perfingens, found in the guts of livestock – most commonly in sheep.
ETX crosses the gut wall and builds up in the kidneys and brain. And, once in the brain, it destroys both the myelin that coats nerves and the cells that produce myelin. In sheep, this type of ETX poisoning is called enterotoxaemia, or pulpy kidney disease.
In MS, myelin and the cells that produce it are destroyed by the immune system. This striking similarity between enterotoxaemia and MS makes any potential relationship worth investigating further.
The most recent study was led by Prof. Richard Titball, and the findings are published this week in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal. Following up on earlier research, Prof. Titball and his team examined the blood of MS patients and a control group without MS. They found that 43% of MS patients had ETX antibodies, compared with just 16% of the control group.
Early studies have suggested that infection is a trigger for a variety of autoimmune disease, including MS. This is thought to be true for at least a third of RA, MS, and Hashimoto’s patients.
Other studies have shown potential environmental factors, more specifically Round-Up and DDT, as widespread pesticides that uncouple zinc and copper from the nervous system, allowing these infections to inhabit the brain and spinal cord.
The article goes on to talk about a potential vaccine for prevention or early treatment. While I am concerned about potential side effects, including epidemic MS, from a vaccine. Early treatment with an antidote does hold some promise.
The environmental toxins are another issue. DDT and Round UP are pervasive in our environment and bodies. There are commonly found in fetal circulation. Much like nanoparticles and bisphenols, eliminating their use does not remove them from the planet.
The Bottom Line:
This line of research is encouraging. We are much closer to understanding and treating autoimmune disease, but there is a long road ahead.
Source: April 25, 2018 National Institutes of Health