What Is The Link Between Mold and Parkinson’s Disease?
Information on Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic degenerative neurological disease caused by the reduction of dopamine in the brain.
The disease is named after Dr. James Parkinson, who discovered the disease in 1817.
Symptoms of PD include tremors; slowness in movements; muscle stiffness; balance problems; fatigue; difficulties speaking and writing; sleep disorders; loss of smell; depression; and cognitive changes. In the latter stages, the majority of patients develop dementia.
Currently, there is no cure for PD.
PD is treated with medications, exercise programs, speech therapy. Deep brain stimulation is another treatment option that has worked on some PD patients.
The cause of PD is not known.
There are many theories, including environmental factors such as pesticide exposure, which affects a greater population living in rural farming communities. The other main thrust of research focuses on genetic factors because 15% of PD patients have first-degree relatives that also suffered from PD.
The purpose of this article is to explore the connection that biological compounds like mold could have on PD.
Parkinson’s Disease in Canada
PD Stats in Canada
More than 100,000 Canadians have Parkinson’s disease, though this is just an estimate because there is no national population-based study on PD.
It is anticipated that rates of PD will increase in Canada dramatically over the next 30 years from 11.6% to 23.6%.
The majority of PD patients are over 65 years old, though there are patients under the age of 40 afflicted with this disease.
Currently, the direct costs related to PD for hospital, physician care, and drugs is $86.8 million in Canada.
Research On The Link Between Mold and Parkinson’s Disease!
What are Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs)?
People get sick from exposure to molds like Aspergillus, Chaetomium, and Penicillium because they release MVOCs.
MVOCS are composed of low molecular weight alcohols, aldehydes, amines, ketones, terpenes, aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons, and sulfur-based compounds, all of which are variations of carbon-based molecules. MVOC’s have a very low odor threshold, thus, making them easily detectable by smell. They often have strong odors and are responsible for the odious smells (“old cheese”, dirty socks” or “locker room”) associated with mold and bacterial growth….In the indoor environment, exposure to fungal MVOC’s has been blamed for headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
In fact, many of the symptoms of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) include the following:
- Memory issues
- Concentration issues
- Mood swings
Research From Rutgers and Emory Universities
Considering the symptoms of CIRS and the fact that MVOCs have a destructive impact on the brain, in the Fall of 2013, researchers at Rutgers and Emory Universities collaborated on a study to explore the link that MVOCs released by mold could have on PD.
Researchers–Arati A. Inamdara, Muhammad M. Hossain, Alison I. Bernstein, Gary W. Miller, Jason R. Richardson, and Joan Wennstrom Bennett–published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Fungal-derived semiochemical 1-octen-3-ol disrupts dopamine packaging and causes neurodegeneration.
Parkinson’s has been linked to exposure to environmental toxins, but the toxins were man-made chemicals. In this paper, we show that biologic compounds have the potential to damage dopamine and cause Parkinson’s symptoms.
The initial hypothesis was proposed by researcher Joan Wennstrom Bennett because she lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. A previous critic of sick building syndrome, Bennett experienced the health impact that mold can have:
I felt horrible – headaches, dizziness, nausea. I knew something about ‘sick building syndrome’ but until then I didn’t believe in it. I didn’t think it would be possible to breathe in enough mold spores to get sick.
To prove her hypothesis, the team of researchers studied the effect that the MVOC, 1-octen-3-ol, also known as mushroom alcohol, had on the movement of fruit flies.
What they found was that mushroom alcohol causes two genes involved in the packaging and transport of dopamine to malfunction causing the neurons to degenerate. Dopamine is the chemical released by nerve cells to send messages to other nerve cells in the brain. They believe that this is the reason the fruit flies’ movement was impacted.
This is an important discovery because it creates further questions about the current hypothesis that the main cause of PD is pesticides. Previous research has linked two pesticides, paraquat and rotenone, commonly used by farmers, to PD. Residents of rural environments are often exposed to mold and mushrooms, meaning that this could also be the potential cause of the PD.
Taking into consideration that MVOCs have a negative destructive impact on the brain, this research provides another possible link that mold potentially has on brain disorders so often displayed by CIRS patients.
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- Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research
- Parkinson Society Canada
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Parkinson’s disease
- Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOC’s)
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