UAB : Impact of multiple sclerosis varies by race in children

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) – Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say that black children are affected more severely by multiple sclerosis than their white counterparts.

In a study published in the Dec 7th issue of the journal "Neurology," it was shown that the severity of cognitive difficulties in pediatric multiple sclerosis may vary between black and white children.  The results could even lead to more individualized treatments for children.

"We don't yet understand the biological reasons, but the bottom line is treatment options must be re-evaluated and be aggressive enough, especially with black patients, to prolong quality of life for as long as possible," says Kelly Ross, M.A, a psychology doctoral degree candidate in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study.

Data was collected on the assessment of 42 children suffering from MS, 20 black and 22 white. Researchers found that while controlling for education and socioeconomic status, black children were more at risk for adverse cognitive impacts in areas like language and complex attention.

"The differential effects of the disease in children based on their race is a trend very similar to research in adults in which MS more severely affects some functions in black patients," says Jayne Ness, M.D., Ph.D., CPODD director and associate professor of pediatrics in the UAB School of Medicine and a co-author of the study.

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