J Neurol Sci. 2003 Sep 15;213(1-2):1-6
Barnett MH, Williams DB, Day S, Macaskill P, McLeod JG.
Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW 2006, Sydney, Australia
The prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) in Newcastle, Australia increased significantly between 1961 and 1981 and the incidence of the disease also increased between the decades 1950-1959 and 1971-1981.
The present study sought to determine whether there has been a further increase in the frequency of MS in the subsequent 15 years, and to examine the potential factors underlying this change.
The incidence, prevalence and clinical profile of multiple sclerosis were therefore re-examined in Newcastle, Australia in 1996 using comparable diagnostic criteria and methods to those employed in studies in the same region in 1961 and 1981.
There has been a significant progressive increase in prevalence from 19.6 to 59.1 per 100,000 population and a significant increase in incidence from 1.2 to 2.4 per 100,000 population from 1961 to 1996.
The most pronounced increase in prevalence was in females and in the age-group over 60 years, and there was also an increased incidence in females aged 20-29 years.
There was little change in the age of disease onset, but duration of disease in females had increased substantially.
The significant increase in prevalence is attributed to increased incidence, particularly in females; and to increased survival.
Although such trends in prevalence have been observed in the Northern Hemisphere, this is the first such study in the Southern Hemisphere to show a longitudinal increase in prevalence and incidence over a period of this duration.