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Sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be clues to causation: review and a hypothesis.

by D A Nelson
Delaware medical journal ()


Sensory signs and symptoms occur in 75 percent of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), ranking second to coordination defects. After intensive research into MS began in the 1930s, most attention was devoted to central nervous system demyelination. Some studies were done on peripheral nerve, but none on the sensory ganglia of the cord or brain. An original and thus far uninvestigated hypothesis is presented here that an unidentified organism might reside and multiply in various dorsal root and cranial sensory ganglia (DRG). This review summarizes the sensory signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis, traces the embryology and physiology of DRG, and describes the present day research status of human demyelination produced by a number of viral infections. If the infectious agent for MS exists in a latent state in the DRG, low spinal fluid viral titers and sporadic cultures of certain viruses might be explained by the occasional contact of spinal and cranial sensory ganglia with spinal fluid flow. Research techniques available to test the hypothesis are as follows: various heating reactions and evoked potential testing of patients, and viral hybridization-transcription techniques applied to DRG obtained at autopsy. The "Decade of the Brain" became law on July 25, 1989, when President Bush signed Joint House Resolution 174. The forward looking declaration calls upon citizens and scientists alike to dedicate themselves for the next ten years to the task of eliminating various neuropsychiatric diseases that decimate many populations. High on the list is multiple sclerosis (MS), the subject of a new hypothesis presented here.

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