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    You are here : Home » MS Research News » Sex » Sexual Transmission of MS

    Sexual Transmission of MS

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    MS Linked To Teenage Sex
    Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry
    September 19, 2002

    MS may be a sexually-transmitted infection picked up during teenage years, claims a consultant neurologist.

    Dr Christopher Hawkes says that some cases of MS might be linked to an unknown agent transmitted ‘chiefly by sexual contact.’ He also claims some childhood MS may be the result of sexual abuse in childhood, or infection via the mother.

    Dr Hawkes, of the Institute of Neurology in London, stressed that the disease was not exclusively transmitted by sexual contact.

    Writing in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychaitry, Dr Hawkes says: I propose that multiple sclerosis is a sexually transmitted infection acquired principally during adolescence and mainly from infected and not necessarily symptomatic males. I do not suggest that sexual transmission is the only cause, but that inherited factors create a susceptibility to a sexually transmitted neurotropic agent.” His highly controversial hypothesis comes from Dr Hawkes’ review of published data on MS clusters and patterns around the world. This includes epidemics in such places as the Faroe Islands, Iceland and the Orkneys. There had been an increase in rates of MS after troops were barracked in these areas, he said.

    His other claims include:

    • Rates of MS were higher in young sexually active people.
    • MS is more prevalent in cultures with more permissive attitudes to sex.
    • In a Danish study of 12,000 MS cases, the prevalence rose significantly when the contraceptive pill was introduced.
    • Both MS and sexually transmitted diseases are lower in societies with a strict moral code.
    • There was an increase in MS rates in women after the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

    Pure Speculation

    However, an editorial comment in the same journal, by Professor Graeme Stewart, of the Institute of Immunology and Allergy Research at Sydney University states:

    “The suggestion that susceptibility to MS may be linked to sexual permissiveness or that childhood MS could result from child abuse have the potential to cause harm, unless it is made clear that they are pure speculation, based on interpretation of data collected for different purposes.”

    The above article caused much stir in the MSRC world too. We have also included on this website  a discussion that took place with reference to the above article. Would you like to have your say? Send us your thoughts on this issue.

    UK - The Times - September 19, 2002
    The Times September 19, 2002
    By Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

    Claims by a senior neurologist that multiple sclerosis may be a sexually-transmitted disease — and that some cases may be the result of sexual abuse in childhood — have caused a storm of protest.

    The MS Society and other experts condemned the findings as “pure speculation” while an MS patient said it was horrendous to be told the disease she suffers might be her own fault.

    Dr Christopher Hawkes of the Essex Neuroscience Centre in Romford, who also lectures at the Institute for Neurology in Queen Square, London, said that MS had a lot in common with sexually-transmitted diseases.

    It emerged at a similar age, and earlier in women than men, and it was more common in societies with a permissive attitude towards sex, he wrote in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

    In Denmark, a study had shown an increase in MS after the contraceptive pill had taken over from barrier methods of contraception.

    The symptoms of MS were also similar to those of tropical spastic paraplegia, which is known to be sexually transmitted.

    Increases in MS often occurred after a large number of troops had been billeted in an area, he said.

    In the Faroe islands, occupied by British troops between 1940 and 1945, the incidence of MS had increased and then declined again after they left.

    But Dr Hawkes was criticised for making such a wounding allegation on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Hilary Freeman, a writer from London who is 31 and was diagnosed with MS five years ago, said: “People with MS have enough problems. To tell them it’s their fault, or their parents’ fault, or to suggest they were abused as children, is horrendous. I got angrier and angrier as I read the paper.”

    But Professor Graeme Stewart, of Sydney University in Australia, said that there was scant data to support Dr Hawkes’ theory and no evidence that spouses of people with MS are at increased risk of the disease.

    Alastair Compston, professor of neurology at Cambridge University, said: “The hypothesis falls down quickly and repeatedly in the face of known facts.

    The above article caused much stir in the MSRC world too. We have also included on this website a discussion that took place with reference to the above article. Would you like to have your say? Send us your thoughts on this issue.

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