Epidemiology and natural history of multiple sclerosis: New insights

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: The cause of multiple sclerosis remains elusive. We review recent epidemiological studies of genetic and environmental factors that influence susceptibility to the disease and its clinical course. Recent findings: Genetic advances strengthen the association of multiple sclerosis with the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1 allele and interferon-γ polymorphisms and suggest that apolipoprotein E alleles play an important role. In the environmental realm, nested case-control studies show that prior Epstein-Barr virus exposure is overrepresented in multiple sclerosis. Smoking has been associated with both risk of multiple sclerosis and progressive disease. Vitamin D deficiency might tie together environmental clues with higher multiple sclerosis prevalence rates; dietary vitamin supplementation is also associated with reduced multiple sclerosis risk. Natural history studies demonstrated dissociation between relapses and disease progression, facilitated the ability to distinguish neuromyelitis optica and related syndromes from typical multiple sclerosis, and spawned the exploration of large datasets to model long-term disease activity. Summary: Our understanding of the contributions of specific genetic and environmental factors that contribute to multiple sclerosis has improved. Further refinements will eventually allow powerful longitudinal studies to assess genetic and environmental interactions with implications for prediction of individual disease susceptibility, clinical course, and response to therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-254
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent opinion in neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Environmental factors
  • Epidemiology
  • Genetic factors
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Natural history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Epidemiology and natural history of multiple sclerosis: New insights'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this