Background: Epidemiological studies describe a latitude gradient for increased MS prevalence and a preponderance of disease in Caucasian individuals. However, individuals from other ethnic backgrounds and low-risk regions can acquire a raised risk through migration. Nearly a fifth of the London population is of Asian/Asian-British origin and a significant proportion of referrals are from this group.
Methods: We investigated whether there were differences in timing, presentation, severity, and immunology of disease (with respect to CD4 myelin epitope recognition) between individuals in London with MS who were either of S. Asian or Caucasian origin. Individuals of S. Asian origin with MS were compared with healthy S. Asian controls, individuals with MS and of Caucasian origin and Caucasian controls.
Results: Age at MS onset is significantly lower in the S. Asian group, attributable to earlier onset specifically in UK-born individuals, though clinical presentation is similar. Analysis of CD4 autoimmunity to myelin antigens shows disease in S. Asian individuals to encompass recognition of novel epitopes; immunity to MBP116-130 in S. Asian individuals was highly disease-specific.
Conclusions: These findings emphasize the need to define disease profiles across ethnicities and identify environmental triggers conferring acquired risk. Such findings must inform choices for immunotherapeutic interventions suitable for all, across ethnicities.