What you need to know:
- It is not yet known what causes MS but some scientists suggest that a measles or rubellla-like virus triggers it.
- The condition is neurological, characterised by loss of a cover of brain and spinal cord nerves called myelin.
The Covid-19 pandemic should provoke governments and research agencies to increase funding of studies into chronic disease conditions. The coronavirus disease has been demonstrated to affect people with chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and obesity, as well those with immunocompromised conditions.
Recent studies indicate that Kenya is recording an unprecedented spike of chronic disease conditions. Included in this category are autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and diabetes type 1.
It is not yet known what causes MS but some scientists suggest that a measles or rubellla-like virus triggers it. The condition is neurological, characterised by loss of a cover of brain and spinal cord nerves called myelin.
It is marked by increased flow of immune cells such as CD4+, CD8+, B lymphocytes and macrophages that attack nerve cells with subsequent demyelination (damage to the protective covering, or myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibres in the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord) and loss of motor and sensory functions, especially blurred vision due to optic neurosis.
MS affects women more than males at a ratio of 3:1, in some cases 7:1. A genetic predisposition has also been demonstrated. The onset of the disease is 10-60 years with the median age of the affected being 25-30 years.
There is no known specific therapy against MS but the condition is managed through use of corticosteroids and other drugs that relieve pain. But recent studies associate use of gold nanoparticles with increased remylenation of affected nerves and restoration of nerve functions.
Additionally, use of cytokines such as interferon beta transforms the growth factor, attenuates the cytokine profile in the brain and spinal cord and promotes motor functions as well.
MS is common in among people with improved socioeconomic benefits since they are least exposed to pathogens and have not been exposed to the virus at an early stage a necessary factor in inducing tolerance.
Studies show oral administration of autoantigens associated with MS, diabetes type 1 and arthritis at an early stage and among affected patients could potentially alleviate symptoms associated with these conditions.
For a long time, MS was associated with the Western world, affecting mainly people living near the Poles. While the virus is predominant in certain latitudes, increased global travel may have introduced it to regions where it did not exist, hence the increased incidence of MS in the country.
Kenya must join the rest of the world in combating chronic conditions by investing in research.
Dr P.M. Mutua (PhD), immunologist, Makueni