The bacterial epsilon toxin has been proposed as a possible cause of new MS lesion formation. How people may be exposed to this toxin and the bacteria that produce it are unknown. To try and determine how humans may become colonized or infected with these types of bacteria, 216 food samples from New York City groceries were tested. Of the 216 samples, three were positive for the epsilon toxin-producing bacteria, suggesting that humans may be exposed to the bacteria by consuming contaminated food.
In addtion to ongoing work to identify and expore sources of this toxin producing bacteria, work performed by the Vartanian lab has also produced a new panel of seven antibodies against epsilon toxin. Four of which inhibit toxin induced cell death. These antibodies will prove vital for identification of the toxin and the bacteria that produce in human samples. These antibodies will allow researchers to test human samples from MS patients and healthy controls for the presence of the toxin. If MS patients are positive for epsilon toxin and healthy controls are not, this would strongly suggest that the toxin plays a role in MS pathogenesis. If this proves to be true, humanization of the antibodies that inhibit the toxin could become a successful treatment option to stop the toxin and therefore stop new MS lesion formation.