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New research published on MS prevalence and ethnicity

A study published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal today has shown significant differences in the prevalence of MS amongst different ethnic groups in London.

Researchers at Queen Mary University, London, identified 776 people with MS across four East London boroughs. They found Black (African or Caribbean descent) and South Asian (Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Sri Lankan descent) people had a lower rate of MS compared to White (British, American or European descent) people.

Researchers also noted the prevalence of MS in Black and South Asian populations living in east London was higher than recorded in Africa, the Caribbean or South Asia. Though the quality of data in many less resourced countries means it is difficult to make a direct comparison.

Welcoming more information

Dr Sorrel Bickley, our Head of Biomedical Research, said: “More than 100,000 people in the UK have MS and we welcome research that helps us better understand the risk of a person developing the condition.

"Within the paper the researchers acknowledge the poor quality of international data on MS prevalence; they helpfully set out how they could investigate true environmental risk in future. We look forward to seeing the results of these studies.”

Cause still unknown

Although the exact cause of MS are not known, it is thought a mixture of genetic and environmental factors play a role.

MS is more common in countries further from the equator, and there is some evidence to suggest someone’s risk profile can be affected by their adopted country, if they are young enough when they move.

The reasons for this are not yet understood, but are thought to be linked with exposure to the UV sunlight and vitamin D. Other environmental factors being investigated include exposure to infections and diet.