New Research Identifies How Pesticides May Increase Risk for Parkinson's

New research published in the February 4, 2014 print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, highlights how pesticides may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, particularly for people with certain gene variants.

The study compared 360 people with Parkinson’s in three rural California counties with 816 people in the area without the disease and their exposure to pesticides at work and home. Its findings indicate that certain pesticides inhibit an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which is related to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers developed a test to identify 11 pesticides, including captan, folpet, ziram, and benomyl, that inhibited ALDH. These pesticides, all used in farming, fell into four structural classes: dithiocarbamates, imidazoles, dicarboxymides, and organochlorides. 

The study, supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Veterans Administration Healthcare System, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, Levine Foundation, and Parkinson Alliance, also found that people with a variant of the ALDH gene were two to five times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease with exposure to these pesticides than people who did not have that gene variant. 

According to study author Jeff M. Bronstein, MD, Ph.D, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the PADRECC at the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the relationship between the gene variant and Parkinson’s was only significant when people were also exposed to the pesticides. “In other words, having this gene variant alone does not make you more likely to develop Parkinson’s,” Bronstein said. “Parkinson’s is a disease that in many cases may require both genetics and environmental factors to arise.”

These findings may provide several possible targets for lowering Parkinson’s risk.

Access the study here.

Date originally posted:  February 7, 2014.