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Open Access Research article

No effect of preterm birth on the risk of multiple sclerosis: a population based study

Sreeram V Ramagopalan12, William Valdar1, David A Dyment12, Gabriele C DeLuca12, Sarah-Michelle Orton12, Irene M Yee3, Maria Criscuoli3, George C Ebers12, A Dessa Sadovnick34* and for the Canadian Collaborative Study Group

Author Affiliations

1 Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford, Roosevelt Drive, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7BN, UK

2 Department of Clinical Neurology, University of Oxford, Level 3, The West Wing, The John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK

3 Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, G920, Detwiller Pavilion, VCHA – UBC Hospital, 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 2B5, Canada

4 Faculty of Medicine, Division of Neurology, University of British Columbia, G920, Detwiller Pavilion, VCHA – UBC Hospital, 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 2B5, Canada

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BMC Neurology 2008, 8:30  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-8-30

Published: 1 August 2008

Abstract

Background

Genetic and environmental factors have important roles in multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility. A clear parent of origin effect has been shown in several populations, perhaps resulting from factors operating during gestation. Preterm birth (birth at less than 37 weeks gestational age) has been shown to result in long-term health problems, including impaired neurological development. Here, in a population-based cohort, we investigate whether preterm birth increases the risk to subsequently develop MS.

Methods

We identified 6585 MS index cases and 2509 spousal controls with preterm birth information from the Canadian Collaborative Project on Genetic Susceptibility to MS. Rates of individuals born preterm were compared for index cases and controls.

Results

There were no significant differences between cases and controls with respect to preterm births. 370 (5.6%) MS index cases and 130 (5.2%) spousal controls were born preterm, p = 0.41.

Conclusion

Preterm birth does not appear to contribute to MS aetiology. Other factors involved in foetal and early development need to be explored to elucidate the mechanism of the increased risk conferred by the apparent maternal effect.