A new study published this week reveals the work of an international team of scientists, who combed records to find 48 new possible causes of multiple sclerosis and markers for several similar conditions.

The expanded knowledge of genetic markers that may make somebody more susceptible to MS is the first step to improved treatments.

A collaborative effort by researchers across the planet has examined the DNA of 80,000 people with and without multiple sclerosis. They found 48 new genetic markers which could make a person more likely to develop the debilitating disease.

Professor David Booth from the Westmead Millennium Institute says one of the major findings in the research he led locally was the important role that the immune system seems to play in the development of MS.

The project also identified a number a significant overlap between MS and similar precursors related to other auto-immune diseases such as Crohn's and coeliac disease.

The researchers say the findings will one day lead to more effective treatments for a range of diseases whose genetic origins have previously been a mystery.

“Because we've got so many genes now they're giving us quite detailed information about the processes that matter in disease progression, so we now have to find why those genes affect MS,” Prof Booth said.

“And that should give us much more detail and ways that we can intervene to slow it or even stop it.”