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Genetic and environmental factors are important determinants of disease distribution. Several disorders associated with ataxia are known to occur more commonly in certain ethnic groups; for example, the disequilibrium syndrome in the Hutterites. The aim of this study was to determine the ethnic and geographic distribution of pediatric patients with chronic ataxia in Manitoba, Canada.
We identified 184 patients less than 17 years-of-age with chronic ataxia during 1991-2008 from multiple sources. Their diagnosis, ethnicity and place of residence were determined following a chart review.
Most patients resided in Manitoba (N=177) and the majority in Winnipeg, the provincial capital. Thirty five Aboriginal, 29 Mennonite and 11 Hutterite patients resided in Manitoba. The latter two groups were significantly overrepresented in our cohort. Ataxia telangiectasia, mitochondrial disorders, and non-progressive ataxia of unknown etiology associated with pyramidal tracts signs and developmental delay were significantly more common in Mennonite patients. Four of five patients with neuronal migration disorders associated with chronic ataxia were Aboriginal. Few isolated disorders with chronic ataxia occurred in the 11 Hutterite patients including a Joubert syndrome related disorder.
Three disorders associated with chronic ataxia were more prevalent than expected in Mennonites in Manitoba. Few rare disorders were more prevalent in the Hutterite and Aboriginal population. Further research is needed to determine the risk factors underlying these variations in prevalence within different ethnic groups. The unique risk factor profiles of each ethnic group need to be considered in health promotion endeavors.
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