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Abstract Details

MS Times Machine: The Story of Multiple Sclerosis in the 19th and 20th Century Through the Eyes of the Times Reader
History of Neurology
S18 - History of Neurology (4:06 PM-4:18 PM)

Though Charcot through a series of lectures described MS in 1868, little advancement was made on our knowledge of MS for almost half a century. Often described as a confusing and baffling disease by scientists at the time, controversial and conflicting theories fed into the “mysteries of multiple sclerosis” public perception.

To describe the evolution in knowledge of multiple sclerosis (MS) through the eyes of the American public chronicled by the leading newspaper of our generation, New York Times (NYT).

Review of literature from the NYT archive from 1851-2000.

Literature review starts with articles highlighting work of Dr William Hammond, former US Surgeon General, confirming the findings of Charcot in his book “Treatise on Disease of Nervous System” (1871). Coverage explodes after an advertisement placed by Sylvia Lawry on behalf of her brother with multiple sclerosis in NYT (1945) led to the establishment of the National MS Society (1946), bringing the disease into the national spotlight. Articles highlighted potential use of various controversial therapies including vitamins, dicoumarin and amyl nitrate (1940-50’s). Reports on links with toxic chemicals like carbon monoxide (1940) and cyanide (1952) gave way to “infectious” theory with possible culprits being spirochetes, herpes, measles, EBV, canine distemper and finally “allergic-autoimmune” theory (1950-80’s). Epidemiology articles speculated on the relapsing remitting nature of the disease, higher prevalence in the northern latitudes and puzzling clusters. Early 1980’s reported on possible successful trials with prednisone, cyclophosphamide and ACTH, advent of MRI (1982) and even a failed vaccine. Late 80’s and early 90’s reported the advent of present day DMTs culminating in the approval of the first DMT “Betaseron” (1993) and bizarreness of the drug lottery. Chronological timeline will be provided.

This review aims to highlight the public perception of MS and continued misconceptions despite significant strides in the understanding of the disease.

Lakshman Narain Arcot Jayagopal, MD (Nebraska Medical Center)
Dr. Arcot Jayagopal has nothing to disclose.