The course of MS is highly variable, with a wide range in age at onset, either relapsing or progressive course from onset, and major differences in relapse severity and recovery.

Ethnicity or familial genetic background could influence the susceptibility or modify the disease progression, but few comparative data regarding disease severity have been available in different ethnic groups throughout the world, and epidemiologic data concerning people with MS in North Africa are scarce.

Studies of North Africans living in France have reported a more aggressive course of MS in compared to Caucasians.

In a multi-centre study from France and Tunisia, researchers looked at disability progression in three groups of people with MS: 1) North Africans living in France, 2) North Africans living in Tunisia and 3) Caucasian (white European) individuals living in France.

A total of 462 people with MS were asked about their place of birth and their parents’ place of birth. Researchers compared the time that it took an individual to move from diagnosis to a range of disability milestones (EDSS of 3, 4 and 6).

They found that the group who had higher risk in both environment and genes (being a north African raised in France) was the most likely to have a younger age at MS diagnosis, and the shortest time from MS diagnosis to developing an EDSS of 6. Researchers found that the difference between the three groups was independent of any treatments that they had received.

These findings further underline the role of both environment and genes in defining the risk of MS in an individual.

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