Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. Etiology is thought to be multifactorial with genetic and environmental factors interplay. Our objective in this study is to evaluate culture specific and other early life risk factors for MS. We examined the association between MS and breastfeeding including shared breastfeeding, parental consanguinity, being born abroad or living abroad during childhood, prematurity, vaccination, tonsillectomy, rank among siblings, number of siblings, number of household members (HHM) at birth, and age first time joining school.
This is an age and sex matched case-control study that was conducted in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). We enrolled 300 cases and 601 controls. A structured questionnaire about demographics, consanguinity and potential environmental factors was answered by participants. Data was analyzed using logistic regression adjusting for covariates occurring later in life such as waterpipe smoking and performing Hajj.
About two thirds of the cases and the controls were females. Mean age was 34.8 (9.2) for the cases and 33.6 (10.6) for the controls. We found that shared breastfeeding (OR=0.58; 95% CI, 0.35-0.96, p = 0.033), and older age first joining school (OR=0.83; 95% CI, 0.73-0.94, p = 0.005) were associated with decrease risk of MS. While longer duration of breastfeeding by biological mother (OR=1.03; 95% CI, 1.01-1.04, p = 0.001), rank among siblings of ≥6 (OR=1.69; 95% CI, 1.11-2.56, p = 0.014), and larger number of HHM at birth (OR=2.32; 95% CI, 1.64-3.28, p = 0.001) were associated with increased risk. Patients with MS were less likely to receive formula with breastfeeding than controls (OR=0.72; 95% CI, 0.51-0.99, p = 0.046). No association was found with breastfeeding by biological mother, number of siblings, prematurity, being born abroad or living abroad during childhood, vaccination, consanguinity, or tonsillectomy.
The findings of this case-control study add to the accumulating evidence that early life factors could modify the risk of developing MS. Among these, novel associations with shared breastfeeding and number of HHM at birth are suggested. Future studies are needed to verify the observed results.