Clostridium bacteria can cause multiple sclerosis-like brain damage

The bacteria, commonly found in the soil and uncooked meats, creates a toxin that can break the blood-brain-barrier and cause brain damage.

By Ananth Baliga

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- A rare strain of Clostridium bacteria, which commonly causes food-borne illness, was found to create a toxin that caused multiple sclerosis-like brain damage in mice.

C. perfringens Type B, not previously known to infect humans, was detected for the first time in a human in a female MS patient.


In lab tests, researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical College found that the spore-forming bacterium created a toxin that flowed through the blood, crossed the blood-brain barrier and killed myelin-producing cells.

“We provide evidence that supports epsilon toxin’s ability to cause BBB permeability and show that epsilon toxin kills the brain’s myelin producing cells, oligodendrocytes; the same cells that die in MS lesions,” said Jennifer Linden of Weill Cornell Medical College, who presented the research at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

"Epsilon toxin may be responsible for triggering MS,” Linden said.

MS is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that damages the myelin covering of neurons. While the causes of MS are unknown, it is widely accepted that a mixture of genetic and environmental factors trigger the disease.


Linden said that if it can be confirmed that the epsilon toxin is the trigger for MS, then a vaccine can be developed to counteract the effects of epsilon.

Clostridium comes in different strains and is present in the soil and uncooked meats. It can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps, and in rare cases gangrene.


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