Can you inherit MS genetically?

12 November 2013



Is MS hereditary?


Steve - We really do not understand why your husband developed multiple sclerosis. The wonderful progress that Professor Compston discussed earlier in this session really gives us hope that in the future, we might understand MS in a simpler way. We know that genetics and our inheritance does predispose some of us more than others to developing MS. But MS is not a purely or even a predominantly hereditary disease.

Alastair - Well, only really to reiterate what Steve has said that knowing about the genetics of multiple sclerosis helps us as medical scientists to understand the nature of the problem, but it's not a cause for worry for individual people. Because the risks to close relatives are very, very low, except in the one situation of an identical twin. The genetics is about understanding what's going on. Not about counselling or other applications.

Hannah - Say, for example, my grandma had multiple sclerosis, what's the chance of me then developing multiple sclerosis compared to Chris whose grandparent didn't?

Alastair - Well, I'm sorry to hear about your granny, Hannah, but it does mean that you are very slightly more likely than the average person to develop the illness. Shall we say, 1 in 500 people will develop multiple sclerosis and if you've got a first degree relative who has or had the illness then your individual risk is slightly increased. But it is still very low and we have figures for the granddaughter of a woman who had the illness in life and you can be reassured that this risk is down at under 1%.


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