Research Article| Volume 2, ISSUE 3, P213-232, July 2013

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Staphylococcal immune complexes and myelinolytic toxin in early acute multiple sclerosis lesions—An immunohistological study supported by multifactorial cluster analysis and antigen-imprint isoelectric focusing

Published:February 25, 2013DOI:


      Highly significant clinical, epidemiological and pathogenetic similarities between multiple sclerosis (MS) and nasopharyngeal sinusitis has led to the hypothesis that MS is caused by the inadvertent incorporation of the lymphatic drainage of the nasopharynx into the extracellular fluid circulation of the CNS. It has been postulated that, in response to antigenic and toxic products generated by the mucosal nasopharygeal flora, the leptomeninges and CNS parenchyma acquire the characteristics of a persistently stimulated lymphoid organ. Using an extensive panel of bacterial antibodies, tissues from exceptionally early cases, identified and classified using multifactorial cluster analysis, were screened for bacterial antigens using immunohistological methods. Anti-staphylococcal antibodies detected antigen co-locating with IgG/C3d immune complexes in pre-demyelinating and in primary lesions. The distribution of the antigen in relation to the morphogenesis of early acute MS lesions is detailed. Evidence for the intrathecal processing of staphylococcal antigen was obtained using isoelectric focusing and antigen imprinting to identify antigen-specific oligoclonal bands. Employing a combination of isoelectric focusing, western blotting and mass spectrometric analysis, evidence for the intrathecal processing of staphylococcal β-haemolysin (sphingomyelinase) was obtained using CSF from MS cases. While a myelinolytic transportable toxin may be an important component in the pathogenesis of demyelination, in oligodendrocyte apoptosis, and in deviant immune responses within the CNS, the detection of other as yet unidentified staphylococcal-positive and negative oligoclonal bands points to the involvement of a cocktail of transportable antigens leaking in a similar manner into the CNS from the paranasal sinus mucosal tissues where these molecules are conserved by the resident flora to manipulate and subvert the normal processes of local and systemic immunity. Evidence for the access of other bacterial transportables to the CNS in MS should now be sought. The presence of ‘high-output’ toxigenic bacterial strains within the nasopharyngeal flora of MS patients should also be explored. The use of tracer molecules to detect and quantify nose-to-brain transport in MS patients is clearly apposite.


      • Lymphatic drainage of the nasopharynx accesses the CNS in MS.
      • Staphylococcal sphingomyelinase immune complex is detected in primary MS lesions.
      • Evidence for nose-to-brain transport of other bacterial toxins should now be sought in MS.


      CNS (Central nervous system), MS (Multiple sclerosis), ECF (Extracellular fluid compartment), MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging), OCB (Oligoclonal bands), EBV (Epstein–Barr Virus), HHV6 (Human Herpes Virus Type 6), SDS-PAGE (Sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis), HRP (Horseradish peroxidase), HLA-DR (Human lymphocyte antigen-DR), DAB (3,3’-diaminobenzadine tetrahydrochloride), AEC (3-amino-9-ethyl carbazole), FITC (Fluorescein isothiocyanate), TRITC (Tetrarhodamine isothiocyanate), IEF (Isoelectric focusing), SSPE (Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis)


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