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Genetic Ancestry Associated with Clinical Course in Hispanic-Latinos: Study is Ongoing

October 16, 2018

  • Researchers investigating the influence of genes on MS in people of Hispanic descent report that people of Hispanic descent who also have genetic evidence of native American ancestry were more likely to have optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve) as a first symptom and have an earlier age of onset.
  • This is just one finding in an ongoing study focusing on understanding genetic and clinical differences between ethnic groups for clues to the causes of MS and to improve care.
  • Researchers continue to recruit Hispanic/Latinos with MS for further study in California, Florida, New Mexico and Puerto Rico. Join these studies
  • The team – Lilyana Amezcua, MD (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) and Jacob McCauley (University of Miami) and colleagues – published the findings in Annals  of  Clinical  and  Translational  Neurology (First published: 23 September 2018).
Background: For decades, many healthcare professionals assumed that MS was uncommon in the Hispanic/Latino population. But recent studies are suggesting an increase in the number of people throughout Latin America diagnosed with MS. Improving access to quality MS care across the cultural and socioeconomic spectrum means understanding how each group experiences and perceives the disease and identifying the factors that limit access to care. Understanding genetic and clinical differences between ethnic groups may yield important clues to the causes of MS.
This Study: Investigators obtained data on 1,033 Hispanic Latinos with MS who have been enrolled in an ongoing study by the University of Southern California, University of Miami, University of California San Francisco, and San Juan MS Center. The team obtained information on genetic ancestry (examining DNA to determine ancestry), age at MS onset, and the occurrence of optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve).
Results: Those who showed native American ancestry were significantly more likely to have optic neuritis as a first symptom of MS, and a younger age of MS onset. Native American ancestry was highest in Hispanic Latinos living in the southwestern United States.
Next Steps: The findings point to the possibility that genetics underlie clinical differences in people of different ethnic backgrounds. This team is studying these differences further, and continues to recruit Hispanic Latinos with MS for further study in California, Florida, New Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Join these studies

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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