What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis can cause debilitating fatigue, vision problems, impaired balance and coordination, and muscle stiffness. It is usually disabling, and its causes have not yet been identified. In multiple sclerosis (MS), our immune system mistakenly attacks myelin or the sheath that covers the axon. The axon is the projection that allows brain cells to send electric signals carrying information. As the damage occurs, various functions — such as motor and cognitive functions and sight — are gradually impaired.

According to Atlas, an MS resource put together jointly by the World Health Organization and the MS International Federation in 2008, on a global level, “the median estimated prevalence of MS is 30 per 100,000,” and the United States has one of the highest prevalence of MS cases.

What exactly causes MS is yet unclear, meaning that, currently, treatments focus on managing the symptoms of the condition rather than eliminating its biological triggers. But emerging research from the University of Geneva and the Geneva University Hospitals — both in Switzerland — may have just brought us one step closer to understanding what drives the development of this disease. “We decided,” explains senior researcher Doron Merkler, “to analyse the infectious factors [in MS] by studying the autoimmune reactions provoked by different pathogens. This was to try to pinpoint an element that might influence the development of [MS] where there has been an infection,” he adds. The team’s findings were published yesterday in the journal Immunity.

Credit: Maria Cohut for Medical News Today, 16 May 2018.