Children of parents with MS have an increased risk of developing MS. The chance is relatively small, however. Many years ago, studies in Minnesota established that the risk for children born to a mother with MS is 20 to 40 times higher than for the general population and that female children have twice the risk as males. However, these children will be under greater surveillance than the general population, and a diagnosis of MS is less likely to be missed. Parents and other family members are not likely to ignore symptoms of milder illness. The risk in the general population is quite small, and even at such elevated risks, this corresponds to small percentages.
Recent studies in Canada suggest that parents with the "DR-2" gene (DR1 1501b) have an even higher risk of transmitting the probability of MS to their children than had been thought previously. It is clear from these studies that mothers have the greatest risk of passing on an increased risk of MS to their children, with girls possessing the "DR-2" gene having the greatest risk. Care must be taken before extrapolating these observations to other populations, however. For example, we have found that DR-2 is rare in the Cuban American population, but MS is relatively common in this population. The population of patients with MS in Sardinia has been studied intensively, and they, too, appear to have different genes that correlate with their risk of MS. Siblings are reportedly 10 times more likely to develop MS than the general population. It is probably more correct to say that their risk of being diagnosed is 10 to 20 times greater.
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