Multiple Sclerosis Risks
September 19, 2002 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Multiple Sclerosis could be sexually transmitted! Not only that, your risk of developping the disease can double if you own a bird, but if you own a cat or a dog, your risk decreases...
posted by titboy (28 comments total)
This is far too bizarre to contemplate.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:19 PM on September 19, 2002

Classic junk science headline "Scientist theorizes..." should instead be "Scientist hypothesizes..." just like the first quoted researcher states, that he doesn't agree with the hypothesis. Freshly tested and untested ideas are hypotheses, not theories.
posted by mathowie at 4:28 PM on September 19, 2002

Sweet! So drinking and smoking aren't the reason my future wife will outlive me -- it's those damn parasites.

That's it, I'm going to live in a bubble. Albeit, a rum-smelling nictotine stained one...
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:56 PM on September 19, 2002

I remember once upon this time there was this classmate of mine with MS who was majorly hitting on me, and I pretended not to notice her advances as anything more than friendliness because I didn't want to get into a weird pity-fuck relationship with someone who seemed desperate for romantic attention. And now I read this and congratulate myself anew for my good sense while hating my own guts for that very self-congratulation.

I can't pat myself on the back without smacking myself sharply upside the head.
posted by alumshubby at 6:03 PM on September 19, 2002

Thanks for the informative and compassionate post, titboy. My mother has MS and two dogs, not that it matters. Fortunately, you won't "catch" anything whatsoever if you follow my simple request to go f*ck yourself.
posted by birddog at 6:05 PM on September 19, 2002

Are you going to flame Yahoo Health News and the Université de Montréal, too?

I thought I was pretty neutral in that post, with the ! as a sign of surprise...
posted by titboy at 6:13 PM on September 19, 2002

You're right, titboy - I should probably just lighten up, is that it? I have to wonder what rationale someone would have for contributing to the spread of disinformation, however. That in and of itself is not a neutral act.
posted by birddog at 6:43 PM on September 19, 2002

From the dog and bird article: "The study compared the living habits of 200 Montrealers suffering from MS with those of a control group"

I guess they could have done a survey thing, like "did you have dogs before you contracted MS," but otherwise it seems that all they measured was that people who already have it are less likely to own dogs and cats and more likely to own birds. There could be any number of reasons for this that do not rely on the animals actually having something to do with how the disease is contracted.
posted by Nothing at 6:44 PM on September 19, 2002

If MS can be sexually transmitted like any other STD, then wouldn't gay men have the highest infection rate? Unless you see a higher rate of MS among groups that are traditionally more likely to contract a STD, then I'm not sure how the connection fits.
posted by Beholder at 6:53 PM on September 19, 2002

A UK researcher asserts in a new report that the degenerative neurological disease multiple sclerosis may be sexually transmitted.

. About 5% of people with MS also have a sibling with the illness and about 15% have another close relative with the disease

Wow, what a lot of bullcrap. If MS is sexually transmitted, then why aren't there more married couples who have MS together? The numbers should be through the roof. Instead, we get siblings and relatives sharing the disease.

And this is the most ridiculous support for his theory:

Adding to the evidence linking MS to a sexually transmitted infection, according to Hawkes, is that symptoms of the disease are similar to those of a sexually transmitted disease called tropical spastic paraplegia.

Right. So two diseases having similar symptoms must mean they are both transmitted the same way. Loss of hair, bad skin, ridged fingernails, fatigue, palpitations, weight loss...symptoms caused both by hyperthyroidism and by arsenic poisoning. similar symptoms, completely different causations.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:56 PM on September 19, 2002

Alan Osmond, a devout Mormon, has MS. Ditto Annette Funicello, who never smoked and, from all indications, never slept around. Just two examples, but I'm sure there are plenty more that can serious doubt on this theory.

Off on a tangent here...I have Lupus, which the Lupus Foundation is always telling us is more prevalent than MS, Diabetes and AIDS combined. But I've never heard of, say, a major celebrity as being diagnosed with Lupus. Look how many have MS: Richard Pryor, Lola Falana, David L. Lander, Montel Williams, Terri Garr. And there are a bunch of celebrity diabetics. Anyone out there know of any famous Lupies?
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:58 PM on September 19, 2002

Look birddog...
posted by titboy at 7:45 PM on September 19, 2002

Sigh. My wife has MS and we have two cats, so I'm underwhelmed with the theory. In fact, I gave her her weekly interferon injection about ten minutes ago. We've been fortunate so far - she was diagnosed about 5 years ago and her symptoms have been very minor with no real long term consequences. The thing that's hard, though, is that constant nagging fear in the back of your mind that it could all turn to crap some morning when she wakes up. You try to realize the reality that she's just as likely to have few problems as you make good lifestyle decisions, but it's still always there lurking there in the background.


Ah well, carry on.
posted by warhol at 7:49 PM on September 19, 2002

well I feel sorry for everyone who has MS or knows someone who has MS... if all those emotional types who feel like flaming me would read my post carefully first.

I said "could be sexually transmitted".

Besides, since when do posts necessarily reflect the opinion of posters?
posted by titboy at 8:08 PM on September 19, 2002

I'm going to live in a bubble. Albeit, a rum-smelling nictotine stained one...

Do you have a link for that, Dark Messiah? Do they ship to Europe?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:21 PM on September 19, 2002

you know, birddog, it's not like titboy implied that your mom is a whore. i can understand your reaction if your mom was recently diagnosed, though i don't think you need to lash out at someone else for it, for any reason. lighten up.

and before you say it: yeah, my sister has MS.
posted by tolkhan at 8:37 PM on September 19, 2002

i've got a dog, cat, and bird. would either the dog or cat negate the bird?
posted by fore at 9:10 PM on September 19, 2002

Germ Theory
posted by redhead at 9:16 PM on September 19, 2002

Hey, how about some actual facts about the etiology of MS.

MS sufferers are constantly bombarded with the latest crackpot theories (bee stings and magnets are especially popular), and this is just one more piece of crap that's getting far more attention than it deserves.
posted by stefanie at 9:39 PM on September 19, 2002

birddog, you are way overreacting. The discovery of a sexual vector for MS, should this hypothesis hold up, certainly is not a suggestion that MS is only an STD. Indeed, I thought we were well past the time when merely having an STD was considered "fightin' words". Titboy deserves an apology.

Oriole Adams: It's an interesting question you ask. As it is, lupus seems to be the poster child of diseases without celebrity spokespersons. Even though more people have lupus than AIDS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis combined, it seems some diseases, such as alpha-1 antrypsin disease, Canavan disease, bulimia or lupus, have no celebrities willing to go to the mat for them. Some ailments are just too stigmatized or uncool to attract celebrity support. It is hard to imagine J-Lo or Jennifer Aniston leading a march on Washington to demand more research on urinary incontinence.

stefanie, on preview: Do note that the etiology page you link to lists "Viruses" third among possible modes of transmission. Since initial exposure to numerous viruses occurs during childhood, and since some viruses are known causes of demyelination and inflammation, it is possible that a virus is the triggering factor in MS. More than a dozen viruses including measles, canine distemper, and herpes (HHV-6) have been investigated to determine if they are involved in the development of MS, but it has not yet been definitively proven that any one virus triggers MS.

And I don't know for sure, but the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and Dr. Christopher H. Hawkes of the Institute of Neurology in London hardly seem like crackpots to me.
posted by dhartung at 9:50 PM on September 19, 2002

The report does not prove that MS is sexually transmitted, but it "provides a testable hypothesis," Hawkes said.

It's not a peer-reviewed test of a hypothesis... it's not even a test at all. I'm sure the guy's a reasonable scientist, but it really drives me nuts when raw and untested ideas are bandied about as fact. When he comes up with actual data that upholds the hypothesis then he's got something we can call a "possible cause" but until then he's just a guy with an unusual idea (and there's no shortage of those)

Regarding the human virus theory, there's some commentary in a book I have:

Most likely, MS is not transmitted from human to human. If it were, the number of cases would have reached outrageously epidemic proportions.

And trust me... I work with biologists and neurologists and I can tell you that they can be just as moronic as the next guy . I only wish all those Ph.D. programs taught common sense.
posted by stefanie at 10:50 PM on September 19, 2002

And I don't know for sure, but the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and Dr. Christopher H. Hawkes of the Institute of Neurology in London hardly seem like crackpots to me.

Argument from the appearance of authority just ain't a-gonna cut it

The actual title of the paper in the Journal: "Is multiple sclerosis a sexually transmitted infection?" Regardless of the grandiosity of journal title and institute name, one certainly hopes, for example, that a difference is discernible between "Is multiple sclerosis a sexually transmitted infection?" and the title of a certain 1983 paper about a certain other mysterious illness "'Isolation of a T-Lymphotropic Retrovirus from a Patient at Risk for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)".

The article's abstract states "It is not proposed that sexual transmission is the only cause but that inherited factors create a susceptibility to a sexually transmitted neurotropic agent. It is hoped this hypothesis might encourage a new direction of neurological research. [emphasis added]". Indeed, the linked article quotes the paper's author: "The report does not prove that MS is sexually transmitted, but it provides a testable hypothesis, Hawkes said. "

Infectious etiologies for a variety of illnesses have been hypothesized. Many illnesses, like cancer and heart disease, have been shown to have multifactorial causes. No doubt similar findings will be shown in other diseases.

The jury is still way out on MS, though.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:54 PM on September 19, 2002

Given the distress MS sufferers and their families endure perhaps our time would be better spent discussing reliable clinical studies from credible sources which have integrity in the way they go about publishing their results (as opposed to hypotheses)

Hypotheses which the media sensationalise often leap from casual to causal relationship status and if prematurely publicised may be given importance they do not deserve. Single epidemiological studies with such a small sample group do not deserve this kind of attention.
posted by lucien at 4:48 AM on September 20, 2002

I am pretty sure that when I was a teenager I saw Dinah Shore doing TV awareness announcements about lupus. Whether or not she had it, I don't know.
posted by JanetLand at 5:41 AM on September 20, 2002

Oriole Adams: my wife has lupus, and she's pretty famous, at least to me. My sympathies for what you are going through.

You're right, though; for a disease that primarily attacks women in their child-bearing years, it is odd that lupus' best-known victim is Charles Kuralt.
posted by yhbc at 6:46 AM on September 20, 2002

OK. I get it. Because people on MeFi have MS, or because they are related to people who have MS, we are not allowed to discuss it without checking with them first.
posted by dhartung at 10:41 AM on September 20, 2002

No you don't get it :)

Since such a large number of baseless hypotheses are released each year, which the popular press jump on without discrimination, then my belief is, that we should check the quality of the "research" (or in these two cases, the lack thereof) rather than the hyperbole surrounding the publication.

There seems little to say about this, other than it's obviously rubbish.
posted by lucien at 10:56 PM on September 21, 2002

« Older Davis signs $9.95 billion bond bill to boost...   |   The grayest of gray Republican eminences weigh in... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments