MS prevalence in New Zealand, an ethnically and latitudinally diverse country

Bruce V Taylor, John F Pearson, Glynnis Clarke, Deborah F Mason, David A Abernethy, Ernie Willoughby, Clive E Sabel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) is not uniform, with a latitudinal gradient of prevalence present in most studies. Understanding the drivers of this gradient may allow a better understanding of the environmental factors involved in MS pathogenesis.
Method: The New Zealand national MS prevalence study (NZMSPS) is a cross-sectional study of people with definite MS (DMS) (McDonald criteria 2005) resident in New Zealand on census night, 7 March 2006, utilizing multiple sources of notification. Capture–recapture analysis (CRA) was used to estimate missing cases.
Results: Of 2917 people with DMS identified, the crude prevalence was 72.4 per 100,000 population, and 73.1 per 100,000 when age-standardized to the European population. CRA estimated that 96.7% of cases were identified. A
latitudinal gradient was seen with MS prevalence increasing three-fold from the North (35S) to the South (48S). The
gradient was non-uniform; females with relapsing–remitting/secondary-progressive (RRMS/SPMS) disease have a gradient
11 times greater than males with primary-progressive MS (p<1107). DMS was significantly less common among those of Maori ethnicity.
Conclusions: This study confirms the presence of a robust latitudinal gradient of MS prevalence in New Zealand. This gradient is largely driven by European females with the RRMS/SPMS phenotype. These results indicate that the environmental factors that underlie the latitudinal gradient act differentially by gender, ethnicity and MS phenotype. A better understanding of these factors may allow more targeted MS therapies aimed at modifiable environmental triggers at the population level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1422-1431
JournalMultiple Sclerosis Journal
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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