Could hepatitis infection increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease?

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Infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus could be associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study.

The research, published recently in Neurology, analyzed hospital records to assess the effect of hepatitis infection on the risk of developing Parkinson’s later in life. Hepatitis has a substantial disease burden, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (MD, USA) estimates between 850,000 and 2.2 million individuals in the USA suffer from chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C estimates are even higher, at between 2.7 and 3.9 million patients.

The researchers examined hospital records from 1999–2001, focusing on individuals with their first recorded case of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, autoimmune hepatitis, chronic active hepatitis or HIV. The team compared these records to those of individuals admitted for relatively minor conditions, such as cataract surgery, and then analyzed all participants to identify which patients went on to develop Parkinson’s disease.

The study identified nearly 22,000 patients with hepatitis B, 48,000 with hepatitis C, 20,000 with HIV and a further 10,000 with autoimmune hepatitis or chronic active hepatitis. This cohort was compared with a control group of more than 6 million individuals with minor conditions.

Utilizing this data, the team discovered that individuals with hepatitis B were 76% more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than the comparison group – a total of 44 hepatitis B patients developed Parkinson’s compared with an expected 25 cases in the general population.

In addition, the team demonstrated that those with hepatitis C infection were 51% more likely to go on to develop Parkinson’s. However, they found there was no increased in likelihood for patients suffering from autoimmune hepatitis, chronic active hepatitis or HIV.

The researchers acknowledge there are some limitations to their study, for example they did not adjust for lifestyle factors, such as smoking, which could affect Parkinson’s risk. However, with further research, these findings could help further elucidate the pathology and disease development of Parkinson’s.

Author, Julia Pakpoor, from the University of Oxford, UK, concluded: “The development of Parkinson’s disease is complex, with both genetic and environmental factors.

“It’s possible that the hepatitis virus itself or perhaps the treatment for the infection could play a role in triggering Parkinson’s disease or it’s possible that people who are susceptible to hepatitis infections are also more susceptible to Parkinson’s disease. We hope that identifying this relationship may help us to better understand how Parkinson’s disease develops.”

Sources: Pakpoor J, Noyce A, Goldacre R et al. Viral hepatitis and Parkinson disease: A national record-linkage study. Neurology. doi:10.​1212/​WNL.​0000000000003848 (2017) (Epub ahead of print); www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1540

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