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New Research Finds Ways to Better Prevent Women From MS

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an inflammatory disease that severely affects the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. The disease literally eats away at the body, yet can sometimes be maintained through intense treatment. MS is one of the most common autoimmune disorders in the nervous system, with women being twice as likely as men to be diagnosed. But new research suggests that a common bacteria that occurs in the intestines may lead to helping reduce the risk of MS among women.

A recent study at the Western Australian Neuroscience Research Institute (WANRI) has found a connection between a childhood infection and a lowered risk for MS later in life. This research was conducted under the “hygiene hypothesis,” or the belief that exposure to certain pathogens when you are a kid can protect you as an adult from certain illnesses.

The researchers at WANRI wanted to explore the results of earlier research that suggested the bacterium H. pylori is extremely common, especially in the developing world, with most people being exposed before the age of two. The bacterium lives dormant in the gut for years, much like the virus that causes chicken pox. Most people with h. pylori in their intestines do not become ill as adults, although they have been thought to cause the majority of stomach ulcers.

During the study, researchers looked at samples of stomach antibodies from 550 patients with MS. They also looked at the same samples from patients without MS. The researchers found that women with h. pylori in their samples were far less likely to have MS. They did not find the same result for men however. This discovery suggests that the bacterium may help protect women against MS.

Scientists will need to dig deeper in order to find out more about these results. The fact that the study results were different between genders is curious indeed. It is hoped that further research will lead to new medications for those struggling with MS and perhaps even other autoimmune disorders. The medicine could perhaps mimic the way h. pylori works within a person who has had it inside of their body for life.

The WANRI study also supports the “hygiene hypothesis” mentioned earlier. Lead researcher Professor Allan Kermode welcomed the results and what it could mean for the future of medicine.  "The results from this research may indicate that H. pylori has a protective effect against MS and also bolsters evidence for the role of the hygiene hypothesis in autoimmune diseases."

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