A poison created by bacteria in food may be a trigger for the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis, according to a new study.
A toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens seems to attack the same cells that are damaged in people with MS, according to researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College, NBC News reported.
“What we’ve shown is the toxins target the cells that are targeted in MS,” researcher Jennifer Linden said. She’s presenting the findings Tuesday at an American Society for Microbiology meeting.
C. perfringens causes a million cases of food poisoning in the United States each year. The researchers analyzed a small number of food products and found that about 13 percent of them contained C. perfringens, and nearly three percent tested positive for the toxin that may be linked to MS.
While it’s too soon to suggest that food poisoning may cause MS, the study does raise the possibility that C. perfringens might play a role in activating the disease, Bruce Bebo, associate vice president of discovery research for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, told NBC News.
About 400,000 Americans have MS.