Parkinsons risk 'from raised pesticide level in blood'
People with raised levels of a particular pesticide in their blood may have an increased risk of Parkinson's disease, research published yesterday showed.
The findings provide some of the strongest evidence yet linking Parkinson's and pesticide exposure. Scientists believe they could lead to a blood test that would identify potentially susceptible individuals. Those at risk could then be given protective treatment and monitored for early signs of the disease.
Previous studies have found higher than normal levels of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT in the brains of Parkinson's patients. But the new research is the first to highlight a specific pesticide chemical in the blood.
Scientists studied 113 people aged 50 to 89. Fifty had Parkinson's, 43 were healthy, and 20 had Alzheimer's disease.
Tests were carried out on their blood to search for traces of 15 organochlorine pesticides. One chemical, beta-HCH (hexachlorocyclohexane), was unusually likely to be found in the blood of people with Parkinson's.
Beta-HCH was detected in 76% of these samples compared with 40% of the healthy volunteers and 30% of Alzheimer's sufferers.
Blood levels of the chemical were also markedly higher among Parkinson's patients compared with the other groups.
Study leader Professor Dwight German, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, US, said: "There's been a link between pesticide use and Parkinson's disease for a long time, but never a specific pesticide.
"This is particularly important because the disease is not diagnosed until after significant nerve damage has occurred. A test for this risk factor might allow for early detection and protective treatment."
Organochlorines were widely used from the 1950s to the 1970s but are now much more tightly regulated.
They persist in the environment for years without breaking down, dissolve in fats, and are known to damage nerves.
"Much higher levels of the beta-HCH were in the air, water and food chain when the Parkinson's patients were in their 20s and 30s," said Prof German. "Also, the half-life of the pesticide is seven to eight years, so it stays in the body for a long time."
The scientists, who report their findings today in the journal Archives of Neurology, believe pesticide exposure is just one of a number of factors that contribute to Parkinson's.
Evidence suggests some people have a genetic make-up that makes them sensitive to the chemicals. They may not be able to metabolise, or break down, the substances as well as others. This would explain why the Parkinson's patients in the study had raised levels of beta-HCH in their blood.
Another possibility was that beta-HCH was not the harmful agent itself, but acted as a marker for the presence of another damaging chemical.
The scientists wrote: "It is possible that elevated levels of beta-HCH may be a useful clinical measure to identify people who may have an increased risk of PD (Parkinson's disease), particularly when combined with information about genetic polymorphisms in genes that metabolise organochlorine pesticides."
Life & Style blogs
Plus live in a folly tower and Towcester growth
Plus how much you need to earn to rent in London, and new homes figures
Plus where The Apprentices live, house price growth outside London, and househunter numbers
The 10 Best Scotch Whiskies
Casualty in crisis: A&E - a service in meltdown
The myth of the modern dad exposed: New book claims men still won't sacrifice their careers for fatherhood
The experts' guide to summer: From getting fit for the beach to recreating that Olympic buzz
Obsessive compulsive hoarding: A serious health risk in store
- 1 Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever
- 2 Notes from a small island: Is Sealand an independent 'micronation' or an illegal fortress?
- 3 You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
- 4 'Swivel-gate': David Cameron goes to war with the press over 'swivel-eyed loons' slur
- 5 It’s official: thanks to Stephen Hawking's Israel boycott, anti-Semitism is no more
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
£28000 - £31500 per annum + benefits: Randstad Education Newcastle: Permanent ...
£50000 - £58000 per annum + Benefits and Bonus: Progressive Recruitment: SAP F...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + BENS: Progressive Recruitment: Drupal Developer A ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + bens: Progressive Recruitment: C# WEB DEVELOPER Le...