Assessing global distribution of HSP

Prevalence rates and genetic diagnosis statistics


Pooled averages of multiple studies yield a prevalence of HSP of 3.6 per 100,000 population with a 95% statistical chance of the real figure being between 2.0 and 5.3 per 100,000 people. This is 50% lower than the rate found in a 2009 Norwegian study of 2.5 million people that came up with 7.4 per 100,000.


The number of families without genetic diagnosis after systematic testing ranged from 45–67% for autosomal dominant HSP, and 71–82% for autosomal recessive HSP.



Hereditary cerebellar ataxias (HCA) and hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSP) are two groups of neurodegenerative disorders that usually present with progressive gait impairment, often leading to permanent disability. Advances in genetic research in the last decades have improved their diagnosis and brought new possibilities for prevention and future treatments. Still, there is great uncertainty regarding their global epidemiology.


Our objective was to assess the global distribution and prevalence of HCA and HSP by a systematic review and meta-analysis of prevalence studies. The MEDLINE, ISI Web of Science and Scopus databases were searched (1983-2013) for studies performed in well-defined populations and geographical regions. Two independent reviewers assessed the studies and extracted data and predefined methodological parameters.

Overall, 22 studies were included, reporting on 14,539 patients from 16 countries. Multisource population-based studies yielded higher prevalence values than studies based primarily on hospitals or genetic centres. The prevalence range of dominant HCA was 0.0-5.6/10(5), with an average of 2.7/10(5) (1.5-4.0/10(5)). Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3)/Machado-Joseph disease was the most common dominant ataxia, followed by SCA2 and SCA6. The autosomal recessive (AR) HCA (AR-HCA) prevalence range was 0.0-7.2/10(5), the average being 3.3/10(5) (1.8-4.9/10(5)). Friedreich ataxia was the most frequent AR-HCA, followed by ataxia with oculomotor apraxia or ataxia-telangiectasia.

The prevalence of autosomal dominant (AD) HSP (AD-HSP) ranged from 0.5 to 5.5/10(5) and that of AR-HSP from 0.0 to 5.3/10(5), with pooled averages of 1.8/10(5) (95% CI: 1.0-2.7/10(5)) and 1.8/10(5) (95% CI: 1.0-2.6/10(5)), respectively. The most common AD-HSP form in every population was spastic paraplegia, autosomal dominant, type 4 (SPG4), followed by SPG3A, while SPG11 was the most frequent AR-HSP, followed by SPG15. In population-based studies, the number of families without genetic diagnosis after systematic testing ranged from 33 to 92% in the AD-HCA group, and was 40-46% in the AR-HCA, 45-67% in the AD-HSP and 71-82% in the AR-HSP groups.


Highly variable prevalence values for HCA and HSP are reported across the world. This variation reflects the different genetic make-up of the populations, but also methodological heterogeneity. Large areas of the world remain without prevalence studies. From the available data, we estimated that around 1:10,000 people are affected by HCA or HSP. In spite of advances in genetic research, most families in population-based series remain without identified genetic mutation after extensive testing.


SOURCE: Neuroepidemiology. 2014;42(3):174-83. doi: 10.1159/000358801. © 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel. Epub 2014 Mar 5. PMID: 24603320 [PubMed – in process]

The global epidemiology of hereditary ataxia and spastic paraplegia: a systematic review of prevalence studies.

Ruano L1, Melo CSilva MCCoutinho P.

1Hospital de São Sebastião, CHEDV, Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal.


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