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Weak link between epsilon toxin and MS

James D. Bowen, MD

A recent article has been published suggesting that MS may be caused by a bacterial toxin. The bacteria is Clostridium Perfringens, a common bacteria found in soil and a cause of food poisoning. This bacteria can produce a number of toxins, one of which is the epsilon toxin.

This study found that about 10% of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) had antibodies to the epsilon toxin, compared to 1% of people without MS. In pathology specimens from mice, the epsilon toxin was found to bind to blood vessels in the retina of the eye, and to myelin in the brain. The authors also reported a single case of a woman with MS who was infected with Clostridium Perfringens and that was producing the epsilon toxin.

Though this study has been widely discussed online, I think that it is unlikely that this will be the answer to the MS problem. This study was primarily in pathology tissue, which found that the toxin was able to bind to myelin. Many more studies will be needed to determine whether this toxin is capable of causing damage to myelin of the type that is seen in MS. There are many other known toxins to myelin, but so far none seem to be the cause of MS.

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