BACKGROUND: Large population-based genome-wide association studies have identified several multiple sclerosis (MS) genetic risk variants, but the existing missing heritability warrants different strategies. Isolated populations offer an alternative way of searching for rare genetic variants and evaluating the possible role of consanguinity in the development of MS. Studies of consanguinity and MS risk have yielded conflicting results.
OBJECTIVES: In this study we investigated the role of consanguinity on MS risk in the relatively isolated Faroe Islands, which have a presumed high level of inbreeding.
METHODS: A total of 29 cases and 28 matched controls were genotyped and assessed for inbreeding coefficients, number of runs of homozygosity (ROH) at different lengths and observed number of homozygotes as measures of relatedness. Parametric and non-parametric statistical models were applied.
RESULTS: Both cases and controls exhibited considerable relatedness demonstrated by very high inbreeding coefficients, large number of observed homozygotes and many long ROH. However, apart from the number of ROH ≥ 2.5 mega base pairs, no significant differences between the two groups were observed.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, no significant difference between cases and controls were found, indicating that consanguinity in itself does not appear to be an important risk factor for MS in the population of the Faroe Islands.