Neurologists from Germany and Spain, writing in the journal Lancet Neurology, have summarised new developments in MS in 2011.

They note that new research adds weight to the likely central role of the immune system in the development of MS, that gut bacteria may play a bigger part than previously thought, and that new diagnostic criteria allow for a diagnosis of MS to be made on the first attack for up to half of people with their first episode of demyelination.

In relation to gut bacteria, we have long heard theories about the 'leaky gut' in MS; new animal research shows that our normal gut bacteria probably play a major role in the development of MS.

This may have implications for treatment in the future. As far as diagnosis goes, new criteria mean that if there is evidence of both old and new lesions on the first MRI scan, neurologists can now make the diagnosis at the first attack.

For many people, there is now no need to wait for a second attack before a firm MS diagnosis can be made. This is important as it allows people to start early with lifestyle modification to facilitate recovery.