J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2002 Sep;73(3):256-60
Dean G, Elian M, De Bono AG, Asciak RP, Vella N, Mifsud V, Aquilina J.
Health Research Board, Dublin, Ireland Central Middlesex Hospital, London, UK St Luke's Hospital, Guardamangia, Malta Department of Health Information, Guardamangia, Malta.
To ascertain the prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the islands of Malta and compare it with a previous study undertaken 21 years earlier, when a remarkably low prevalence was found.
Deaths with MS on the death certificate since the last study were reviewed. Sources of information about new patients were the Hospital Activity Analysis scheme, the MS Society of Malta, the records of the state hospitals, long stay private hospitals and nursing homes, lists provided by the state pharmacies, and magnetic resonance imaging, cerebrospinal fluid, and evoked response studies. Prevalence day was 1 January 1999. The Poser classification was used.
Since 1978, 17 patients had died with a verified diagnosis of MS on the death certificate. They included all 10 deaths with MS from the original study and two immigrants. Fifty patients had clinically definite MS (CDMS) and 13 clinically probable MS (CPMS). The prevalence of CDMS was 13.2/100 000 (male 11.2, female 15.2). The prevalence of CDMS and CPMS combined was 16.7/100 000 (male 13.3, female 19.9). The annual incidence was 0.7/100 000. Twelve patients were found with CDMS among the 7213 immigrants resident in Malta (166/100 000). The expected rate was 1/100 000, determined at Maltese born rates. There were major changes in the population distribution during the 21 years between the two studies, with a big increase in the age groups with a high risk of MS. There is a longer expectation of life and the diagnosis in now made earlier.
Malta still has a low MS prevalence. In comparison with Sicily and other Mediterranean countries of Europe it offers an opportunity to ascertain the genetic and environmental factors responsible for the disease.