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Air pollution may be an environmental risk factor for multiple sclerosis, according to a study presented May 22 at the European Academy of Neurology Virtual Congress.

Roberto Bergamaschi, M.D., Ph.D., from the IRCCS Mondino Foundation in Pavia, Italy, and colleagues investigated the association of air pollution (generalized particulate matter 2.5 µm in size [PM2.5]) with multiple sclerosis prevalence in the Italian province of Pavia (population: 547,251 residents). The analysis included 927 patients with multiple sclerosis cases (66 percent women). The European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme database was used for spatial emission data (winter ground-level PM2.5 concentrations for 188 municipalities between 2010 and 2017).

The researchers found that the overall multiple sclerosis prevalence in Pavia was 169.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 1974. There was significantly higher multiple sclerosis risk among persons living in areas with PM2.5 concentration higher than the European threshold limit (25 µg/m³).

“The detection of high-risk clusters with an excess number of multiple sclerosis cases encourages analytical studies in those areas to analyze multiple environmental factors related to the different distribution of the multiple sclerosis,” the authors write.

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