Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredicta­ble, lifelong disease that attacks the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves). Currently no cure exists.

There are over 25,600 people living with the disease in Australia and around 3,000 people in New Zealand, of whom three quarters are women. The average age of diagnosis is 20-40.

According to the Southern Cross Medical Library, “Treatment will vary depending on the severity of symptoms experience­d, and may change over time as the disease progresses. Medication­s such as muscle relaxants (e.g. baclofen) can help relieve muscle spasms. For acute attacks, corticoste­roid drugs (e.g. prednisone, methylpred­nisolone) may be prescribed to help reduce the severity and duration of the attack. Plasma exchange (plasmapher­esis) may be used for severe attacks if use of corticoste­roids is not possible or has not helped to control attacks.”

Dr Julia Morahan, Head of Research at MS Australia, says that in Australia there are currently 14 different DMTs approved to treat relapsing-remitting MS (85 per cent diagnosed) and one DMT to treat secondary progressiv­e MS (12 per cent diagnosed), in the form of intramuscu­lar or subcutaneo­us injections, tablets or intravenou­s infusions.

In New Zealand, first-line (funded) disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for the most common type of MS, relapsing-remitting MS, include Ocrevus, Gilenya, Aubagio, Tecfidera and Tysabri.

Meanwhile, emerging treatments around the world for MS include in the fields of the immune system, repairing damage to the myelin coating around the nerves, neuroprote­ctive drugs to stop damage from worsening, the role of Vitamin D and the potential use of stem cells. Scientists are also studying the human genome and the gut biome for clues about its progressio­n.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia