Statistical Review Reveals True Prevalence of Muscular Dystrophies Duchenne and Becker

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by Isaura Santos |

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iowaResearchers working in public health have recently published a report based on the first broad study in the United States on the frequency of two common muscle-weakness disorders that mostly affect boys: Duchenne muscular dystrophy and Becker muscular dystrophy. The study was published in Pediatrics and it is titled: “Prevalence of Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophies in the United States.”

The study was led by scientists from the University of Iowa and the team found that about 1 in every 5,000 boys aged between 5 and 9 years old suffer from these hereditary disorders. They also identified that these diseases appear to impact more Hispanic boys than Caucasian or African-American boys, however, the reasons underlying this fact are still unexplained.

These findings are important because they clarify how many children and families are actually affected by the disorders. Valuable information is also provided to healthcare professionals and doctors so they can better care for those with the disease and assist them while it progresses.

Paul Romitti, who is the corresponding author of the study and an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa, said in a press release: “There were always some rather crude estimates of how common these muscular dystrophies are. It tells us that they’re still an important public health concern.”

Muscular dystrophies are conditions characterized by progressive muscle weakness. In children, the most common form is Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which results in the loss of the capacity to walk sometime between 7 and 13 years old, and death in teenagers up through their 20s. Becker muscular dystrophy is very similar to Duchenne, but it is characterized by a more variable progression of symptoms and has a later onset and slower progression. There are no cures for these disorders.

Researchers analyzed births and medical records collected in the states of Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Iowa, Hawaii and western New York between 1982 and 2011. The prevalence of these disorders was calculated in 5-year time periods beginning in 1991 to 1995 and ending in 2006 to 2010.

They found that 2 in every 10,000 boys during the years 1991-1995, 1996-2000 and 2001-2005 had the disease; and from 2006-2010, the prevalence was 1.5 in every 10,000, which the researchers believe may be due to delayed diagnoses. Hispanic boys were more affected that African-Americans in all the periods sampled. Of the 845 assessed cases, three-quarters corresponded to Duchenne’s disease.

“People who have these disorders require daily attention from their families and complex-care management from health-care providers. The new data will help to estimate the cost for the parents and the health-care system. We are continuing to learn more about the total impact of these disorders on the child and the family,” concluded Romitti.