Estimated Prevalence and Incidence of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and SOD1 and C9orf72 Genetic Variants

Neuroepidemiology. 2021;55(5):342-353. doi: 10.1159/000516752. Epub 2021 Jul 9.


Introduction: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rare neurological disorder characterized by progressive deterioration of motor neurons. Assessment of the size/geographic distribution of the ALS population, including ALS with genetic origin, is needed to understand the burden of the disease and the need for clinical intervention and therapy.

Objectives: The main objective of this study was to estimate the number of prevalent and incident ALS cases overall and superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) and chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) ALS in 22 countries across Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and UK), North America (USA and Canada), Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Uruguay), and Asia (China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan).

Methods: A comprehensive literature search was conducted to identify population-based studies reporting ALS prevalence and/or incidence rates. Pooled prevalence and incidence rates were obtained using a meta-analysis approach at the country and regional geographic level. A country-level pooled estimate was used when ≥2 studies were available per country and geographic regional pooled estimates were used otherwise. The proportion of cases with a SOD1 or C9orf72 mutation among sporadic (sALS) and familial (fALS) cases were obtained from a previous systematic review and meta-analysis.

Results: Pooled prevalence rates (per 100,000 persons) and incidence rates (per 100,000 person-years) were 6.22 and 2.31 for Europe, 5.20 and 2.35 for North America, 3.41 and 1.25 for Latin America, 3.01 and 0.93 for Asian countries excluding Japan, and 7.96 and 1.76 for Japan, respectively. Significant heterogeneity in reported incidence and prevalence was observed within and between countries/geographic regions. The estimated number of 2020 ALS cases across the 22 countries is 121,028 prevalent and 41,128 incident cases. The total estimated number of prevalent SOD1 cases is 2,876 cases, of which, 1,342 (47%) were fALS and 1,534 (53%) were sALS, and the number of incident SOD1 cases is 946 (434 [46%] fALS and 512 [54%] sALS). The total estimated number of prevalent C9orf72 cases is 4,545 (1,198 [26%] fALS, 3,347 [74%] sALS), and the number of incident C9orf72 cases is 1,706 (450 [26%] fALS and 1,256 [74%] sALS).

Discussion: The estimated number of patients with SOD1 and C9orf72 ALS suggests that although the proportions of SOD1 and C9orf72 are higher among those with fALS, the majority of SOD1 and C9orf72 ALS cases may be found among those with sALS (about 53 and 74%, respectively). These results suggest that classification of fALS based on reported family history does not capture the full picture of ALS of genetic origin.

Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Epidemiology; Genetics; Incidence; Prevalence.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / epidemiology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis* / genetics
  • C9orf72 Protein / genetics
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Prevalence
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1 / genetics


  • C9orf72 Protein
  • C9orf72 protein, human
  • SOD1 protein, human
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1