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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
27-Mar-2008

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Contact: Charlotte Webber
charlotte.webber@biomedcentral.com
44-020-763-19980
BioMed Central
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Family study bolsters link between pesticides and Parkinson's

For the first time, the association between Parkinson's disease and exposure to pesticides has been shown in patients with the neurological disorder compared with their unaffected relatives, according to a study in the online open access journal BMC Neurology.

Parkinson's disease is a common neurological disorder affecting about 1 million people in the USA. The disorder typically develops in later life resulting in symptoms such as tremors and muscle rigidity

Although variations in several genes have been identified that contribute to the disease, these rare genetic defects account for a small proportion of the overall prevalence of the disorder.

The majority of Parkinson's disease cases are thought to be due to an interaction between genetic and environmental factors.

"Previous studies have shown that individuals with Parkinson's disease are over twice as likely to report being exposed to pesticides as unaffected individuals" says the study's lead author, Dana Hancock, "but few studies have looked at this association in people from the same family or have assessed associations between specific classes of pesticides and Parkinson's disease."

The study of related individuals who share environmental and genetic backgrounds that might contribute to Parkinson's disease enables researchers to identify specific differences in exposures between individuals with and without the disease. The research team from Duke University Medical Center (Durham, NC) and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Morris K. Udall Parkinson Disease Research Center of Excellence (Miami, FL, USA) recruited 319 patients and over 200 relatives. They used telephone interviews to obtain histories of pesticide exposure, living or working on a farm, and well-water drinking.

The authors detected an association between pesticide use and Parkinson's disease. Among these, the strongest were between the disorder and use of herbicides and insecticides, such as organochlorides and organophosphates. No association was found between Parkinson's disease and well-water drinking or living or working on a farm, which are two commonly used proxies for pesticide exposures.

Many studies have supported pesticides as a risk factor for PD, but "biological evidence is presently insufficient to conclude that pesticide exposure causes PD", says Hancock. "Further investigation of these specific pesticides and others may lead to identification of pertinent biological pathways influencing PD development." In addition future genetic studies of Parkinson's disease should consider the influence of pesticides, since exposure to pesticides may provide a trigger for the disease in genetically predisposed individuals.

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Notes to Editors

1. Pesticide exposure and risk of Parkinson's disease: a family-based case-control study
Dana B Hancock, Eden R Martin, Gregory M Mayhew, Jeffrey M Stajich, Rita Jewett, Mark A Stacy, Burton L Scott,
Jeffery M Vance and William K Scott
BMC Neurology (in press)

During embargo, article available here:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/5063219561619932_article.pdf?random=550129

After the embargo, article available at journal website:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcneurol/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication

2. BMC Neurology is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of the prevention, diagnosis and management of neurological disorders, as well as related molecular genetics, pathophysiology, and epidemiology. BMC Neurology (ISSN 1471-2377) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Thomson Scientific (ISI) and Google Scholar.

3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an independent online publishing house committed to providing immediate access without charge to the peer-reviewed biological and medical research it publishes. This commitment is based on the view that open access to research is essential to the rapid and efficient communication of science.



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