Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a similar disease to MS that affects both brain and the spinal cord. For a long time, neurologists thought that NMO was a type of MS, so they treated both similarly. However, over the past two decades researchers have shown that they are different.

In most parts of the world, NMO is a rare disease in comparison with MS but we still don’t know how it is distributed among different populations in different countries. For that reason, scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, USA looked at populations with different ethnicities in Martinique and Olmsted County, USA (Afro-Caribbeanor black and Caucasian or white) to see how many people with NMO were among each. They found more people with NMO among Afro-Caribbeans than Caucasians.

They also showed that there was a higher prevalence of NMO in the USA than previously thought. The results of this study underlines the role of genes that contribute differently to the disease in each ethnicity. In future, genes can be studied directly to further improve our understanding of the difference between MS and NMO better.

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