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Results from studies of twin concordance in multiple sclerosis have not conclusively differentiated between environmental and genetic factors that determine susceptibility to the disease. Published studies that have been based on case finding by public appeal have been characterized by difficulties in ascertainment. The data reported here are from a large population-based study of multiple sclerosis in twins, in which ascertainment has been relatively unbiased and the cooperation of patients nearly complete. A total of 5463 patients attending 10 multiple sclerosis clinics across Canada were surveyed. Twenty-seven monozygotic and 43 dizygotic twin pairs were identified, and the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was verified by examination and laboratory investigation. Seven of 27 monozygotic pairs (25.9 percent) and 1 of 43 dizygotic pairs (2.3 percent) were concordant for multiple sclerosis. The concordance rate for 4582 nontwin siblings of patients at two multiple sclerosis clinics was 1.9 percent, closely paralleling the concordance rate in dizygotic twins. To the extent that the difference in concordance rates between monozygotic and dizygotic twins indicates genetic susceptibility, the results of this study show a major genetic component in susceptibility to multiple sclerosis.

Original publication




Journal article


N Engl J Med

Publication Date





1638 - 1642


Canada, Disease Susceptibility, Diseases in Twins, Epidemiologic Methods, Female, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Male, Multiple Sclerosis, Twins, Dizygotic, Twins, Monozygotic