Researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York have found that a common strain of foodborne bacteria found on raw meat and poultry may be involved with the development of multiple sclerosis (MS).

It was discovered that certain strains of the Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) bacteria produces a toxin that affects the same type of cells in the body that multiple sclerosis targets, announced the team at a recent American Society of Microbiology’s 2014 ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting.

“This is a prime example of why the Food and Drug Administration and clinical studies are in place to monitor and test products that are available to consumers ,”commented Daniel Nigh, a product liability lawyer with the Levin, Papantonio law firm.

MS attacks the central nervous system by destroying myelin sheath, a fatty, protective covering found on nerve fibers. The degenerative disease affects approximately 400,000 American citizens, and genetic and environmental triggers have been believed to be factors in the development of MS, reported the NY Daily News.

According to the Huffington Post, thirty-seven local food samples were taken in the foodborne bacteria study by the Weill Cornell team and tested for the strain of C. perfringens bacteria that produces epsilon toxin type B, one out 12 protein toxins found in the foodborne bacteria.

Of the samples collected, 13.5 percent tested positive for the C. perfringens bacteria, and 2.7 percent were positive for a strain of the bacteria that produces the epsilon toxin type B. Like MS, epsilon toxin type B also targets the myelin sheath, killing myelin that surrounds nerve fibers in the brain. Strains of C. perfringens bacteria that do not contain the epsilon toxin type B are responsible for some one million cases of food poisoning annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In October 2013, epsilon toxin-producing strains of bacteria in samples of soil were previously found by the Weill Cornell team. After a 21-year-old woman previously diagnosed with MS tested positive for an epsilon-producing strain of C. perfringens, the team launched a further investigation into the possible link between the bacteria and MS. The team’s findings were published online in the journal PLOS ONE

However, the recent study by the Weill Cornell researchers does not outright prove that epsilon-producing strains of C. perfringens found on raw meats could cause the development of MS, and because it has yet to be published in a journal, should be regarded as preliminary.

Krysta is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow her on Twitter @KrystaLoera.