MS news notes: AI and MS diagnosis, gut bacteria, DMTs

Columnist Ed Tobias comments on the week's top MS news

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by Ed Tobias |

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Welcome to “MS News Notes,” a column where I comment on multiple sclerosis (MS) news stories that caught my eye last week. Here’s a look at what’s been happening:

Could MS be predicted by an artificial intelligence tool?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to predict whether or not someone was likely to develop MS? As MS News Today reports in “AI model is able to predict MS risk years before disease onset,” that may be possible someday.

According to the story, researchers have used an algorithm that “suggests that AI-based prediction models could identify the risk for multiple sclerosis years before neurological symptoms appear.” The researchers built this type of model using data including age, gender, metabolic information, and blood markers from 3,000 people, some with MS and some without. The results reportedly were very accurate at predicting MS risk.

A tool like this would certainly be useful in identifying people who should be watched carefully if they develop symptoms suggesting an MS diagnosis. But that raises the question, at least with me, of how early to begin treating those people with a disease-modifying therapy (DMT). Would it be any earlier in the diagnostic process than it is now?

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Bacteria is shown under two magnifying glasses.

Bacterial toxin epsilon in gut may be environmental driver of MS

Another report that bacteria in your gut might trigger MS

Researchers have been studying a possible connection between gut bacteria and MS for a number of years. The story “Gut bacteria may be key to activate immune cells that trigger MS” looks at another study that suggests this. Specifically, these researchers report that immune cells that target myelin appear to be triggered in the gut before moving into the brain and launching an inflammatory attack there.

I’m approaching the 43rd anniversary of my MS diagnosis in a couple weeks, so it’s probably too late for me to do much to correct what’s happening in my gut. But whether it has an impact on my MS or not, I recently started to eat a healthier diet. As they say, it can’t hurt.

WHO lists 3 ‘essential’ DMTs

Three MS therapies listed as WHO essential medicines” brings word of a decision that’s important to people with MS in many parts of the world. “Glatiramer acetate (sold as Copaxone with generics available), Mavenclad (cladribine), and rituximab made the [World Health Organization’s] list because of their ability to safely and cost-effectively slow or delay the disease’s progression,” the story notes.

As MS News Today reported in March, the MS International Federation applied for the inclusion of these DMTs on the WHO list to assure that helpful treatments are available to people in lower- and middle-income countries. Their effort is commendable. I hope the health services in those countries move quickly to provide access to these important MS therapies.

The WHO list “is updated every two years and compiles medications that are of high priority, safe, and cost-effective, and should be available as part of any functioning healthcare system,” the story adds.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Andrea C avatar

Andrea C

So glad to see rituximab treatment on the list. Since it's not officially approved in the US for MS and some other first world countries, this should hopefully have a positive impact all around. I am grateful that Kaiser is using it as the first line defense, but I hear a lot of people don't have access due to it being considered off label use. Hope these three being included helps a lot of people.

I know that gut health has been a part of my journey. Each of my early flairs were also when I was undergoing a bunch of stress and dealing with major gut health issues. Thank you for sharing your research and thoughts with us!

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Andrea,

Thanks for sharing your comments and I'm glad that Kaiser is allowing rituximab to be used, off-label, for your MS. Group health plans seem to often be much too strict about off-label use of medications. I'm also glad that you like what I write. Please tell me if there are any other topics that are of special interest to you.



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