The same bacteria that is implicated in gum disease may now play a part in triggering multiple sclerosis, according to a study in the December 2009 issue of the American Journal of Pathology. Porphyromas gingivalis is a common bacteria in humans. It makes a type of lipid or fat called phosphorylated dihydroceramides (DHCs) that enhances our inflammatory responses. Researchers in the U.S. have found that DHCs can trigger or increase the severity of MS, which occurs when the immune system turns against the body and attacks the brain and spinal chord and leads to paralysis. DHCs may also play a role in other autoimmune diseases. The study refers to DHCs as a “tipping” factor because of their ability to prompt or worsen these illnesses. Next the researchers will focus on determining how this lipid causes such havoc, and whether it can be used to predict the onslaught of MS or even treat the disease. This is particularly relevant in Canada, which has the highest rate of MS in the world—three people across the country are diagnosed with it every day.