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Genetic link to pesticide–Parkinson’s risk

man spraying pesticidesPrevious research has tied pesticides to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Now, California researchers have uncovered a genetic component that exacerbates the risk of developing the disease. The UCLA scientists had found in earlier research that the banned fungicide benomyl stops the conversion of harmful compounds in the body into less harmful matter, increasing the risk of Parkinson’s.

The current research, based on 360 patients with Parkinson’s living in areas with heavy pesticide use and 816 people from the same area who didn’t have the disease, found additional pesticides that also prevent conversion, and at levels lower than current use. Those individuals with a variant of the ALDH2 gene were particularly susceptible to the pesticides, and faced up to six times the risk of developing Parkinson’s when exposed to them (the gene alone didn’t increase the risk). The findings appear in the online edition of the journal Neurology.