AN ENIGMATIC EPIDEMIC

UNE ÉTRANGE ÉPIDÉMIE

By Guillaume COUDREY

ARTLINE FILMS - as PROD

Documentary - Development 2015

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the brain and spinal cord. In France, it is the second most-common cause of disability amongst young people, after car accidents. There is no known cure, and the cause is unknown; it is one of the great medical mysteries.

    • Year of production
    • 2015
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • FRANCE
    • Languages
    • FRENCH, ENGLISH
    • Duration
    • 52 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Guillaume COUDREY
    • Writer(s)
    • Guillaume COUDREY
    • Producer(s)
    • Olivier MILLE (Artline Films)
    • Synopsis
    • Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the brain and spinal cord. In France, it is the second most-common cause of disability amongst young people, after car accidents. There is no known cure, and the cause is unknown; it is one of the great medical mysteries.
      In the middle of the North Atlantic, a small archipelago may hold one of the keys to the mystery: in the Faroe Islands, the disease seems to have cropped up suddenly in the 1940s. Dr. Klaus Lauer devoted years to dissecting changes in the Faroese lifestyle during World War II trying to understand what caused this sudden appearance. He examined transformations in fishing techniques, industry, transportation and housing, in agriculture, society and lifestyle and came to focus on changes in dietary habits. One surprising element caught the neuro-epidemiologist’s eye: the appearance of a particular type of smoked-meat product, which had been hitherto unknown on the archipelago.
      Subsequent studies conducted all over the world remarkably pointed in the same direction. When meat products prepared with nitrates or nitrites (E249, E250, E251 and E252) are smoked, nitric molecules sometimes combine with phenolic elements in the wood, leading to toxic compounds called nitrophenols. For Lauer, absorbing those products during childhood, and under certain conditions, leads to multiple sclerosis later in life.
      MS is becoming recognized as a “malady of civilization.” There is broad consensus around the idea that MS is caused by a complex combination of factors including both genetic and “environmental” elements. MS’s dietary aspect, which was ignored for many years, has lately been recognized as an essential component for understanding the disease. How do scientists feel today about the results obtained in the Faroe Islands? What is their reaction towards Lauer’s hypothesis about the role of nitrated products in MS’s etiology? What kind of research is currently taking place? What will its impact on public heath be?
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