Reports implicating specific transmissible agents in multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility continue to appear. We therefore re-evaluated MS risk in 687 step-siblings of 19 746 MS index cases. We found the risk of MS to be indistinguishable from that of the general population after diagnostic verification. These results are coherent with studies of adopted children, half siblings and conjugals, showing no risk attributable to the familial microenvironment. This family based genetic epidemiological approach found no trace of transmissibility other than genetic from one affected individual to another in the high prevalence area of Canada. This adds to existing data showing that the action of environment in influencing MS risk is operative at a population level.
Size and ascertainment constraints often limit twin studies to concordance comparisons between identical and fraternal twins. Here we report the final results of a longitudinal, population-based study of twins with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Canada. Bias was demonstrably minimized, and an estimated 75% of all Canadian MS twin pairs were ascertained, giving a sample sufficiently large (n = 370) to permit additional informative comparisons. Twinning was not found to affect prevalence, and twins with MS did not differ from nontwins for DR15 allele frequency nor for MS risk to their siblings. Probandwise concordance rates of 25.3% (SE +/- 4.4) for monozygotic (MZ), 5.4% (+/-2.8) for dizygotic (DZ), and 2.9% (+/-0.6) for their nontwin siblings were found. MZ twin concordance was in excess of DZ twin concordance. The excess concordance in MZ was derived primarily from like-sexed female pairs with a probandwise concordance rate of 34 of 100 (34 +/- 5.7%) compared with 3 of 79 (3.8 +/- 2.8%) for female DZ pairs. We did not demonstrate an MZ/DZ difference in males, although the sample size was small. We observed a 2-fold increase in risk to DZ twins over nontwin siblings of twins, but the difference was not significant.
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