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Brain. 2000 Jun;123 ( Pt 6):1102-11.

Autoimmune disease in first-degree relatives of patients with multiple sclerosis. A UK survey.

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  • 1University of Cambridge Neurology Unit, Addenbrooke's Hospital, UK.


Previous studies examining an association with other autoimmune diseases have suggested the existence of a generalized autoimmune diathesis in patients with multiple sclerosis. We investigated the prevalence of autoimmune disease in first-degree relatives of probands with multiple sclerosis using a case-control method. The results show an excess of autoimmune disease within these families, but no significant association was seen with non-autoimmune diseases. The higher risk in multiplex than simplex families suggests an effect of genetic loading. While the increase in risk applies to each autoimmune disease, autoimmune thyroid disease (and Graves' disease in particular) contributes disproportionately to the excess risk. There was no increase in autoimmune disease within patients with multiple sclerosis themselves when compared with the index controls or population data. We conclude that autoimmune disease is more common in first-degree relatives of patients with multiple sclerosis and hypothesize that common genetic susceptibility factors for autoimmunity co-exist with additional disease specific genetic or environmental factors, which determine clinical phenotype in the individual.

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