#AAN2018 – MS Progresses Quickly in African-Americans and May Warrant Aggressive Treatment

#AAN2018 – MS Progresses Quickly in African-Americans and May Warrant Aggressive Treatment

Multiple sclerosis in African-Americans progresses much faster than in Caucasian patients, new research reports, suggesting that blacks would benefit from a more aggressive treatment approach.

Led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and presented at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) annual meeting taking place in Los Angeles through April 27,  the study is titled “Longitudinal assessment of rates of brain and retinal atrophy in African American versus Caucasian American patients with Multiple Sclerosis.”

Mounting evidence points to multiple sclerosis (MS) progressing more quickly in blacks — marked by greater inflammatory disease activity and faster disability accumulation — than whites in the U.S., the team reported.

To further confirm such findings, the researchers evaluated and compared brain lesion progression and retinal atrophy rates in these two MS patient groups.

Brain lesions and alterations were evaluated by brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Retinal atrophy, linked to vision problems like optic neuritis in MS, was determined by optical coherence tomography (OCT), which measures in detail changes in retinal structures like nerve fiber layers.

Brain lesion progression was evaluated over a mean of 4.61 years in 28 African- and 28 Caucasian-American patients, while changes to the retina were tracked for a mean of 4.43 years in 116 black and an equal number of white patients.

Progression was found to be significantly faster in both brain and retinal measures in black MS patients.

Specifically, MRI scans showed whole brain, and gray and white matter atrophy at a pace twice as fast in the African-Americans than in Caucasian-Americans.

Blacks also showed faster atrophy of the thalamus, a brain region linked to cognitive impairment in MS.

Retinal layer atrophy rates were also found to be markedly faster in black patients, with  significantly reduced thickness in the retina’s nerve fiber and inner layer, common causes of visual impairment in MS.

Collectively, these results show that African-American MS patients “exhibit more rapid neurodegeneration with accelerated brain and retinal neuro-axonal loss” than Caucasian-American MS patients, the researchers wrote.

“These results corroborate the more rapid clinical progression observed in [black] patients,” raising the possibility that these patients “may benefit from a more aggressive therapeutic approach,” they concluded.

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  1. rhonda lunceford says:

    I have biracial son that has ms and they are using ocrevus but i cannot see that much of an improvement could there ve something else to use and what about stem cell he is only 36 going to ms center atlanta ga please advise at ths time he cannot work as he is a sports editor.producer

    • charles says:

      I have been on ocrevus for a while now, so maybe my perspective will help. I do not expect ocrevus to improve my condition. the best that it can do is stop my condition from getting worse. that is the best that any disease modifying therapy can do. so far ocrevus is doing that for me. you may want to talk with your neurologist about clemastine as a complimentary therapy to ocrevus. vitamin d and omega-3 fatty acids and alpha lipoic acid are also things to explore with your neurologist. I would recommend that you look up some information about all these things and take that information with you when you go to see the doctor so that you can discuss them. diet and other lifestyle factors may also be important.

  2. Darrel says:

    I don’t feel that John Hopkins research is accurate for all African Americans with Ms. I am in my 28th year with the disease, and my only challenge is with my walking. I am very active. I travel, and my cognitive skills are very good, because I am a writer. I am presently taking Tecfidera, and my brain lesions for the past five years while on the drug has only progressed slightly from the MRI results.

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