Researchers at the University of Helsinki believe that Desulfovibrio bacteria are in most cases the cause of Parkinson’s disease. According to the researchers, screening potential carriers of these bacteria could in practice reduce the symptoms, or at best prevent the disease.
Parkinson’s disease affects around one in a hundred people over the age of 60, but its cause has not been fully understood. Research has now shown that the disease may be hereditary, but also that an increased sensitivity to toxic substances could contribute to the neurological disorder.
In a new study via the University of Helsinki, published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, researchers looked at the disease and its relationship to bacteria in the gut and stomach. They now believe that the direct cause of Parkinson’s disease may be strains of Desulfovibrio bacteria.
– Our findings are significant, as the cause of Parkinson’s disease has gone unknown despite attempts to identify it throughout the last two centuries. The findings indicate that specific strains of Desulfovibrio bacteria are likely to cause Parkinson’s disease, said Professor Per Saris in a press release.
There have previously been suspicions that the Desulfovibrio bacteria could cause the disease. The main risk is said to lie in environmental factors, in other words, exposure to the bacterial strains that are often found in, for example, aquatic environments with high organic matter. It is also believed that only a small proportion, around 10%, get the disease from genetic causes. Another groundbreaking aspect of the findings is that the disease could be prevented, or the symptoms reduced, by screening potential carriers of the bacterium before the full onset of the disease.
– Consequently, they can be targeted by measures to remove these strains from the gut, potentially alleviating and slowing the symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease, says Saris.
Parkinson's disease is a nerve disorder that makes it difficult for the brain to control the nerve signals that control movement. This can cause, for example, muscle stiffness, reduced mobility or tremors. There is no cure for Parkinson's, but the symptoms can be alleviated.
The disease usually starts after the age of 55 and is more common in men than women. Globally, more than 6 million people live with the disease. In Sweden, the figure is around 20 000 people.