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BACKGROUND: Genetic and environmental factors have important roles in multiple sclerosis (MS) susceptibility. A clear parent of origin effect has been shown in several populations, perhaps resulting from factors operating during gestation. Preterm birth (birth at less than 37 weeks gestational age) has been shown to result in long-term health problems, including impaired neurological development. Here, in a population-based cohort, we investigate whether preterm birth increases the risk to subsequently develop MS. METHODS: We identified 6585 MS index cases and 2509 spousal controls with preterm birth information from the Canadian Collaborative Project on Genetic Susceptibility to MS. Rates of individuals born preterm were compared for index cases and controls. RESULTS: There were no significant differences between cases and controls with respect to preterm births. 370 (5.6%) MS index cases and 130 (5.2%) spousal controls were born preterm, p = 0.41. CONCLUSION: Preterm birth does not appear to contribute to MS aetiology. Other factors involved in foetal and early development need to be explored to elucidate the mechanism of the increased risk conferred by the apparent maternal effect.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Neurol

Publication Date





Adult, Canada, Cohort Studies, Female, Gestational Age, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Multiple Sclerosis, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Outcome, Premature Birth, Risk Factors