Polly: I was diagnosed with primary progressive MS at the age of 56, my identical twin brother died when he was 36. Would he also have been diagnosed with MS?
Professor Gavin Giovannoni, Neurologist: No. Well, I say… the chances are, no. The reason being is that MS is not purely genetic, so if you’ve got an identical twin it doesn’t mean to say definite your twin’s going to… And this is a male pair, so we know that in female pairs, if one has got the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, the other one’s got about a 30% chance of getting the disease living in the UK. In males it’s lower than that, it’s probably about 15%, about half that risk. So… and also, this particular person when they died was 36, so the at risk period of MS is really between the ages of about 18 and 40, so getting towards the at risk period, so I would have said unlikely this person would have got MS.
Polly: Okay. From that, would it be the same kind of reduction in risk if it was sort of a mother to daughter and mother to son?
Professor Gavin Giovannoni: Yes, so that’s the strongest risk, is identical twins. And then as the genetic sharing gets less and less, the risk goes down. So a mother with MS has a daughter, the daughter’s risk is about one in 40, two and a half per cent. Her son’s risk will be half that, about 1.25, one in 80 risk. That’s UK figures, it does vary. The further away from the equator, the higher the risk, the closer you are to the equator, the lower the risk. So these types of figures vary, depending on where you live in the world.
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Professor Gavin Giovannoni has an MBBCh, PhD, FCP (Neurol., SA), FRCP, FRCPath amongst his qualifications. He is the Chair of Neurology at Barts and The London School of Medicine. His research interests have focused around multiple sclerosis and inflammatory disorders of the central nervous system. His teaching focuses on clinical neurology and neuroimmunology.