According to a study published in the July edition of the Neurology journal in 2007, multiple sclerosis affects the immune systems of African-Americans and whites differently. 

The study, pointed out that multiple sclerosis (MS) is not as prevalent but often more severe in Black people than in whites.

The exact reason still hasn’t been identified, but research pointed to genetics as a factor.

John Rinker II, MD, and colleagues of St. Louis at Washington University’s medical school made the bold claims nearly 13 years ago and his assertions still ring true. 

The researchers examined the medical records of 66 African-Americans with multiple sclerosis and 132 whites with the disease.  

After all of the patients had their spinal fluid tested, the researchers found that there were higher levels of antibodies in the African-Americans’ spinal fluid as compared to their white counterparts. 

Antibodies usually act to protect the body. But in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, the body’s immune system fights the body’s own tissue for reasons that aren’t fully understood. In MS, the brain and nervous system are the most abused in the immune system’s misguided attacks. 

In the study, research-supported that those with higher levels of antibodies might stem from having racial genetic distinctions.

“The findings show that ethnic differences in MS extend to the immune response system, which plays a central role in MS,” Rinker said in the American Academy of Neurology press release. 

“It remains possible that genes are unevenly distributed between ethnic groups to account for different susceptibility to some diseases,” says Rinker.

Now, that was the case over a decade ago. Can the same be said today?

According to a November 2019 study, the answer is yes. 

African-Americans and Hispanics with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) have higher blood levels of plasmablasts, a type of inflammatory immune cell that produces antibodies, than do Caucasians with this disease, the study found.

The study “Black African and Latino/an identity correlate with increased plasmablasts in MS” was published in the journal Neurology, Neuroimmunology and Neuroinflammation.

Among these two ethnic groups, brain atrophy (shrinkage) and retinal degeneration occur faster, and inflammation of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is more evident.

However, the study doesn’t prove that high levels of antibodies make multiple sclerosis worse and the exact cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown.

We’ll stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

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