What is the worldwide prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS), and what is the role of ethnicity in MS?

Updated: Oct 08, 2019
  • Author: Christopher Luzzio, MD; Chief Editor: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA  more...
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Worldwide, approximately 2.1 million people are affected by MS. The disease is seen in all parts of the world and in all races, but rates vary widely. [50] In general, the prevalence of MS tends to increase with latitude (eg, lower rates in the tropics, higher rates in northern Europe), but there are many exceptions to this gradient (eg, low rates among Chinese, Japanese, and African blacks; high rates among Sardinians, Parsis, and Palestinians).

The presence of these exceptions implies that racial and ethnic differences affect risk. In addition, a substantial increase in MS incidence has been reported from different regions, suggesting that environmental factors, as well as geographic and genetic ones, play an important role in MS. [51] (See Etiology.)

Epidemiologic studies indicate an increase in MS prevalence in Latin America. Susceptibility to MS and clinical behavior of the disease varies genetically in Latin America; for example, MS apparently does not occur in Amerindians with Mongoloid genes. [52]

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