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Acta Neurol Scand. 2010 Jan;121(1):16-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.2009.01291.x. Epub 2009 Nov 16.

Multiple sclerosis in a family on the Faroe Islands.

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Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Brighton, United Kingdom.



John Kurtzke has proposed that multiple sclerosis (MS) on the Faroe Islands occurred as a result of the spread of a transmittable agent brought to the country during World War II.


Kurtzke's theory has been opposed earlier and in this study, we present a family from the Faroe Islands containing a total of 14 family members with MS which show further inconsistencies with the theory. The present study is to our knowledge, the first description of familial incidences of MS on the Faroe Islands.


Medical histories were gathered from 12 family members and 6 of the 8 living MS cases were human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-typed.


Seven family members had primary progressive MS (PPMS), while five had relapsing remitting MS. The HLA-DR15 allele was carried by the three cases with the most aggressive form of MS and they shared a common haplotypes. The HLA types carried by the remaining cases varied.


This research questions Kurtzke's theory as three of the cases do not conform to the epidemic cohorts described. Furthermore, there appears to be a higher than usual prevalence of PPMS. The high degree of heterogeneity of the HLA types carried indicates that HLA alleles do not independently explain the risk of developing MS.

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