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Multiple Sclerosis Disease Burden Higher in Black Patients

Both self-reported disability and objective assessments worse for Black patients, independent of socioeconomic status

man in wheelchair

WEDNESDAY, July 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Black Americans with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience a higher disease burden than White patients, according to a study published online June 30 in Neurology.

Karla Gray-Roncal, M.D., from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues compared MS characteristics including self-reported disability, objective neurologic function assessments, and quantitative brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements for Black and White participants in the Multiple Sclerosis Partners Advancing Technology Health Solutions study.

The researchers found that Black adults with MS had worse self-reported disability, as well as worse performances on tests of cognitive processing speed, walking, and manual dexterity. Additionally, Black patients with MS had more brain MRI lesions and lower overall and gray matter brain volumes, including reduced thalamic, cortical, and deep gray matter volumes. Socioeconomic status was not associated with differences in cognitive processing, walking, or manual dexterity speeds.

"Future studies should consider the role of unmeasured factors like systemic racism to see if they may play a role in greater disability among Black people with MS," a coauthor said in a statement. "These results also reinforce the need for more diverse clinical trials and research focusing on treatment strategies specifically for Black people to identify whether certain therapies or more aggressive early treatment could help slow down disability over time."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

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