A study has recently revealed that environmental factors, including influenza, may put you at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, often including tremors.
Smeyne from Thomas Jefferson University in the U.S. said that this study has provided more evidence to support the idea that environmental factors, including influenza, may be involved in Parkinson’s disease.
Smeyne explained that the mice, who fully recover from the H1N1 influenza virus responsible for the previous pandemic (also called ‘swine flu’), were later more susceptible to chemical toxins known to trigger Parkinson’s.
The study looked at a less lethal strain, the H1N1 “swine flu,” that does not infect neurons, but which, the researchers showed, still caused inflammation in the brain via inflammatory chemicals or cytokines released by immune cells involved in fighting the infection.
Dr. Smeyne showed that mice infected with H1N1, even long after the initial infection, had more severe Parkinson’s symptoms than those who had not been infected with the flu.
Importantly, when mice were vaccinated against the H1N1, or were given antiviral medications such as Tamiflu at the time of flu infection, the increased sensitivity to MPTP was eliminated.
Dr. Smeyne stated, “The H1N1 virus that we studied belongs to the family of Type A influenzas, which we are exposed to on a yearly basis.”
The researchers concluded that although the work presented here has yet to be replicated in humans, but it provides good reason to investigate this relationship further in light of the simple and potentially powerful impact that seasonal flu vaccination could have on long-term brain health.
The study is published in the journal npj Parkinson’s Disease.