A new study today comes to link the development of multiple sclerosis with exposure to a toxin found primarily in sheep, according to the Sunday Telegraph. More than 100,000 people in Britain have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The condition leads to inflammation, pain, disability and in severe cases to premature death, but experts still do not know the underlying cause.
Now researchers at Exeter University have discovered that nearly half of the MS patients they are studying have been infected at some point in their lives by the epsilon toxin. The toxin is produced in the gut of the sheep by the bacterium Clostridium Perfringens and can also be found on the ground.
The researchers examined 250 individuals – half of whom had multiple sclerosis – and found that 43% of the patients had antibodies to the epsilon toxin, demonstrating that they were in the body long enough for the immune system to produce a “response” with the Athens News Agency.
“Our research shows there is a link between the epsilon and multiple sclerosis,” said Professor Rick Titball, of the University of Exeter.
“The causes of multiple sclerosis are not yet fully understood, and while it is likely that this toxin plays a role, it is too early to say it with certainty. More research is now needed to understand how the toxin may play a role and how these findings could be used to develop new tests or treatments. ”
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) was first recognized in the 1860s and has long been established that it is more common in the northern, less sunny climates, creating theories that the condition could be caused by a lack of vitamin D. However, MS is also more frequent in latitudes and in countries where sheep populations are high.
Researchers say people could be contaminated by toxins near sheep and bacteria can also produce spores, which means they can travel for long distances in the air. It is unlikely to be captured through lamb consumption, however, as cooking kills the toxin.
The university began the study with the Life Sciences Society MS Sciences Ltd after hearing that some MS patients in the US had been found positive for the epsilon toxins. Tests in the US have shown that it is possible to treat some people effectively by restarting the immune system using chemotherapeutic drugs.