Background: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a presumed autoimmune disease caused by genetic and environmental factors. It is hypothesized that environmental exposures (such as air and water quality) trigger the innate immune response thereby activating a pro-inflammatory cascade.
Objective: To examine potential environmental factors in pediatric MS using geographic information systems (GIS).
Methods: Pediatric MS cases and healthy controls were identified as part of an ongoing multicenter case-control study. Subjects' geographic locations were mapped by county centroid to compare to an Environmental Quality Index (EQI). The EQI examines 5 individual environmental components (air, land, water, social, built factors). A composite EQI score and individual scores were compared between cases and controls, stratified by median proximity to enrollment centers (residence <20 or ≥20 miles from the recruiting center), using logistic regression.
Results: Of the 287 MS cases and 445 controls, 46% and 49% respectively live in areas where the total EQI is the highest (worst environmental quality). Total EQI was not significantly associated with the odds for MS (p = 0.90 < 20 miles from center; p = 0.43 ≥ 20 miles); however, worsening air quality significantly impacted the odds for MS in those living near a referral center (OR = 2.83; 95%CI 1.5, 5.4) and those who reside ≥ 20 miles from a referral center (OR = 1.61; 95%CI 1.2, 2.3).
Conclusion: Among environmental factors, air quality may contribute to the odds of developing MS in a pediatric population. Future studies will examine specific air constituents and other location-based air exposures and explore potential mechanisms for immune activation by these exposures.
Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier B.V.