September 5, 2002, Thursday
By Don Woolford
A study has started into how lifestyle affects the progression of multiple sclerosis in Tasmania, the state where the incidence of the disabling disease is highest.
Researchers from the Menzies Centre for Population Health Research and Royal Hobart Hospital's MS Research centre, hope to enrol every MS sufferer in southern Tasmania for the long-term study. They think Tasmania is ideal for the first Australian study of its type because its population is so homogeneous.
Menzies Centre researcher Ingrid van der Mei said today studies into the factors that might contribute to the development of MS were started in 1998.
The new study would concentrate on factors that may influence the disease's progression.
MS Research Centre director Bruce Taylor said MS was more common in colder climates, with the disease seven times more common in Tasmania than far north Queensland.
Dr Taylor said there are an estimated 250-300 MS sufferers in southern Tasmania, about two thirds of them women aged 15 to 35.
About 180 of them had agreed to participate in the project and he hoped to enrol them all.
He said it would be hard work for the participants, who'd have to keep a detailed diary of their activities and undergo periodic medical checks.
Researchers wanted to cover everything from diet to exposure to the sun as they searched for connections between lifestyle and how the disease progressed.
Dr Taylor said Tasmania's uniquely homogeneous population was ideal for such a study.
He said about 60 per cent of Tasmanians could trace their origins back to about 8,000 convicts.
© Copyright 2002 AAP Information Services Pty. Ltd.