Vapours from damp buildings may trigger Parkinson’s
'Mushroom alcohol' can damage the nerve cells of the brain, say scientists
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 11 November 2013
A vapour known as “mushroom alcohol” which is present in damp, mouldy buildings can damage the nerve cells of the brain responsible for Parkinson’s disease, scientists said.
A study has found that the compound, called 1-octen-3-ol, leads to the degeneration of two genes involved with the transport and storage of dopamine, the neurotransmitter in the brain that is lost in patients with Parkinson’s.
The researchers suggest that the volatile substances given off by mildew and other fungi growing in damp houses may be a significant risk factor in the development of the degenerative brain disease, which is thought to have environmental as well as genetic causes.
The study was carried out on the dopamine system of fruit flies, a recognised animal “model” of Parkinson’s disease, and the researchers calculated that mushroom alcohol was more toxic to these specialised nerves than benzene – a poisonous chemical known to cause genetic damage.
“These findings are of particular interest given recent epidemiological studies that have raised the concern of neuropsychological impairments and movement disorders in human populations exposed to mouldy and water-damaged buildings,” the scientists said in the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease is seen in rural populations, where it is usually attributed to pesticide exposure. However, the prevalence of mould and mushroom in these environments may provide another plausible risk factor for the development of Parkinson’s disease.”
Until recently, the search for environmental factors that could trigger the disease has focused largely on man-made chemicals, such as pesticides. However, natural compounds could be equally to blame, said Arati Inamdar of Rutgers University.
“There have been studies indicating that Parkinson’s disease is increasing in rural areas, where it’s usually attributed to pesticide exposure. But rural environments also have a lot of exposure to moulds and other fungi, and our work suggests that 1-octen-3-ol might also be connected to the disease, particularly for people with a genetic susceptibility to it,” she added.
Joan Bennett, co-author of the study, said she took an interest in the role of fungi in health after she became ill working in her flood-damaged house in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“I knew something about ‘sick building’ syndrome, because I am an expert in toxic fungi. I didn’t believe in it, because I didn’t think it would be possible to breathe in enough mould spores to get sick,” Professor Bennett said.
But when collecting samples while wearing protective gear, she fell ill. “While I was doing the sampling, I felt horrible – headaches, dizziness and nausea. I had a conversion experience,” she said.
Claire Bale, a spokesperson for Parkinson’s UK, said that the cause of Parkinson’s disease is one of the big unanswered questions.
“We already know that exposure to some chemicals can slightly increase the risk of Parkinson’s, and this is the first study to suggest that chemicals produced by fungi may play a part,” Ms Bale said.
“It is important to remember, this study was conducted using tiny fruit flies, so before we can really be confident about this new connection we need to see evidence from studies in people,” she added.
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming the street artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Are you ready for Crazy Doritos, the red-hot snack food craze sweeping Mexico’s streets?
- 4 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Isis in Kobani: US resupplies Kurdish fighters by plane - then Turkey allows reinforcements through its border
Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming the street artist's identity has been revealed
Super-sized ships arrive in Britain: How big can they get?
Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Year 1 Primary Supply Teachers needed for...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: EY/KS1 Qualified Teaching Assistant J...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified and unquali...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: KS1 & KS2 Teaching Job in Plymouth an...