Weill Cornell Medical College scientists have reportedly presented an abstract at the 2014 American Society for Microbiology (AMS) Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting, positing that “multiple sclerosis [MS] may be triggered by a toxin produced by common foodborne bacteria.” According to a January 28, 2014, AMS press release, “MS is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system characterized by blood brain (BBB) permeability and demyelination, a process in which the insulating myelin sheaths of neurons are damaged,” although the environmental factors that activate the disease in genetically susceptible individuals is not yet known. Now researchers have purportedly found evidence that the epsilon toxin produced by certain strains of Clostridium perfringens not only causes BBB permeability but kills “the brain’s myelin producing cells, oligodendrocytes; the same cells that die in MS lesions.”

“We also show that epsilon toxin targets other cells types associated with MS inflammation such as the retinal vascular and meningeal cells. Epsilon toxin may be responsible for triggering MS,” explained one of the researchers, who further reported that 13.5 percent of local food samples tested positive for C. perfringens and 2.7 percent contained the epsilon toxin gene. “Originally, we only thought that epsilon toxin would target the brain endothelium cells and oligodendrocytes; we just happened to notice that it also bound to and killed meningeal cells. This was exciting because it provides a possible explanation for meningeal inflammation and subpial cortical lesions exclusively observed in MS patients, but not fully understood.”