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New research sheds light on cause of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease which damages the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, has been linked to gut microbes in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) [1].

MS is an autoimmune disorder whereby the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, myelin, which is a protective layer that coats the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This causes a wide range of possible symptoms including impaired speech, blurred vision and poor muscle coordination and fatigue.

Little is known about the causes of MS; it appears to be a disease you may inherit from your parents or one in which may be triggered by external factors such as smoking, lack of vitamin D and viral infections.

A study carried out by University of California, San Francisco has shed new light on the causes of the disease. The study analysed the microbes of 71 participants with MS and 71 healthy participants. It was found bacteria groups Acinetobacter and Akkermansia were 4 times more likely to be present in the gut of participants with MS whereas healthy participants were 4 times more likely to have bacteria group Parabacteroides.

In the second part of the study, researchers used naïve T cells, which can differentiate into other cells based on foreign invaders encountered in the body. These cells were taken from the blood of healthy participants and were exposed to bacteria in the gut of MS patients. They found that these cells differentiated into a T helper cell which triggers inflammation and helps to kill foreign cells encountered by the immune system.

The study suggests that gut microbes may help to trigger MS, together with other factors such as environmental and genetics.

HolistX is a microbiome testing service which can profile the bacteria in your gut based on a simple faecal test.