(HealthDay News) — Low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D), a marker of vitamin D status, early in the course of illness may predict higher risk of increased disease activity and progression in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to research published online January 20 in JAMA Neurology.

Alberto Ascherio, M.D., Dr.P.H., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues measured serum 25(OH)D concentrations in patients enrolled in a randomized trial to evaluate early versus delayed treatment with interferon beta-1b for a first event suggestive of MS. The association between 25(OH)D levels and MS activity and disease progression was assessed.

The researchers found that a 50-nmol/L (20-ng/mL) increase in average serum 25(OH)D levels within the first 12 months was associated with a lower rate of new active lesions (57% lower; P < 0.001), a lower relapse rate (57% lower; P = 0.03), a lower yearly increase in T2 lesion volume (25% lower; P < 0.001), and a lower yearly loss in brain volume (0.41% lower; P = 0.07) from months 12 to 60. Values of 25(OH)D ≥ 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) at up to 12 months were associated with less disability during the following four years.

“Among patients with MS mainly treated with interferon beta-1b, low 25(OH)D levels early in the disease course are a strong risk factor for long-term MS activity and progression,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including Bayer, which funded the original randomized trial.

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