Global MS trends: A chaotic picture with risk as the central theme



– Recent epidemiologic studies of multiple sclerosis from around the globe paint a confusing picture, with incidence up in some countries and down in others, latitudinal associations strong in some regions and waning in others, and an overall lack of well-managed databases to bring order to these findings.

Alberto Ascherio, MD, who moderated a global epidemiology session during the annual meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, said it’s tough to draw firm conclusions from the vastly varied studies assessing epidemiologic patterns of MS around the world. Most researchers are trying to extrapolate population data from smaller groups – a process always fraught with the potential for misinterpretation.

Global data, however, converge on some of the most well-established risk factors for the disease, he said. “There seems to be no doubt that vitamin D deficiency, teenager obesity, Epstein-Barr virus infection, and smoking remain strong risk factors for MS in every database in every country that has examined this,” said Dr. Ascherio, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard University, Boston.

He sat down for a video interview to pick apart some of the findings from studies in Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, Canada, and the United States.

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