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Outcomes for patients with MS vary depending on their race. This article analyzes why this is, and provides an analysis that accounts for various sociodemographic factors.

Among populations that deal with multiple sclerosis (MS), differences in outcomes vary by race in ways that are not fully understood. This article, published in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Diseases, describes a cross-sectional study featuring 120 people with multiple sclerosis with the goal of understanding the presence of a possible interaction between MS and race. The researchers controlled for major sociodemographic factors and comorbidities in order to focus the assessment on race alone. Although a discussion of a broader range of racial categories is needed, this article focuses only on differences in outcomes and disease burden between Black and White participants. 

All participants in this study had experienced disease onset within 6 years of the start of the study. Eighty-two healthy controls between the ages of 18 and 70 years were also chosen. The study used a variety of tests to assess the participants’ MS, including global disability (EDSS), quantitative mobility and leg function, quantitative finger dexterity, and cognitive efficacy and speed performance. Disability outcomes were then evaluated using multivariable linear regression models. Covariates included age, gender, race, income, education, body mass index, and comorbidities. Finally, the relation between MS and race on total outcome was arrived at via relative excess risk of interaction and attributable proportion.

When accounting for age, gender, income, education, body mass index, and comorbidities, Black individuals with MS showed significantly worse performance in manual dexterity and cognition compared to their White counterparts. The authors note that MS and race independently contributed to the variety in disability severity, and that their research does not establish a conclusive reason for this. However, they note that more complex social disparities and systemic racism may be at fault.

Petracca, M., Palladino, R., Droby, A., Kurz, D., Graziano, N., Wang, K., Riley, C., Howard, J., Klineova, S., Lublin, F., & Inglese, M. (2022). Disability outcomes in early-stage African American and White people with multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Relat Disord, 69, 104413. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msard.2022.104413

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