March 2, 2004
The Ulster-Scots may be responsible for Northern Ireland's high number of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers.
Of the estimated 7,000 MS sufferers on the island of Ireland of Ireland an incredible 3,000 of them live in Northern Ireland.
And according to a study into the disease to be published in April, doctors now believe that the historical influx of settlers from Scotland has left those living in Northern Ireland and neighbouring Donegal at greater risk of developing the neurological condition.
Chris McGuigan, author of the report to be published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, has revealed that his research team believes that Scottish emigration to Ireland, particularly to Donegal, is likely to be the main genetic factor in the high numbers of MS in the northern part of the island.
The Plantation of Ulster brought many Scots from the mainland to Donegal in the 1600s and scientists have established that populations with Scottish as well as Nordic ancestry are the most likely to carry the genetic traits of MS, which affects the central nervous system.
Even before that, mercenary soldiers came from Scotland to fight for the O'Donnell clan, who ruled much of the geographical North West at that time.
Chris McGuigan said: "We can say now that the entire island of Ireland is a very high risk area for the development of MS but we have shown that a difference in prevalence exists between the North West and South East.''
A neurologist at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, Mr McGuigan's team
surveyed GPs, hospital doctors, pharmaceutical companies, respite centres
and support groups.
Copyright © 2004, Trinity Mirror Plc