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Demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system occurring in black South Africans


OBJECTIVES To investigate the nature and cause in eight black South African patients of a recurrent (multiphasic), remitting, and relapsing demyelinating disease of the CNS.

METHODS The clinical and laboratory investigations and radiological manifestations of these patients were documented.

RESULTS Each patient had two or more acute attacks of demyelinating disease affecting the CNS. The clinical presentations of the patients were predominantly those of multiphasic neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Brain MRI in these patients showed features consistent with those described for acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), as well as lesions that are described in multiple sclerosis. There was involvement of the corpus callosum in addition to typical ADEM lesions. Laboratory investigations excluded all other known causes of multiphasic CNS demyelination. Oligoclonal antibodies were not detected in these patients at any time. The patients were all from a population with a low risk for MS (black South Africans).

CONCLUSION The patients described here represent a new phenotypic expression of a recurrent (multiphasic), steroid sensitive, inflammatory demyelinating disorder of the CNS occurring in black South Africans. The disorder is either a distinct inflammatory demyelinating disorder of the CNS of as yet unknown aetiology, or a varied form of MS (ADEM/NMO) occurring in a population with a low risk (where the genetic trait and environmental risk factors for MS do not exist) for MS.

  • multiphasic neuromyelitis optica
  • multiple sclerosis
  • acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
  • Black South African

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