Can Mold Cause Parkinson’s Disease?
Recently, there have been several news reports about the link between Parkinson’s disease and mold.
Parkinson’s disease (PD), discovered by Dr. James Parkinson in 1817, is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system caused by the death of dopamine-generating cells in a region of the midbrain. Symptoms are movement-related, including shaking, rigidity, and walking difficulties. Later stages of PD include thinking and behavioral problems, and eventually dementia when the disease is in the advanced stage.
The exact cause of PD has never been found, though previous research has linked it to environmental factors including: pesticide exposure, head injuries, and living in the country or farming. Genetic factors have also been considered a factor because around 15% of individuals with PD have a first-degree relative who has had the disease.
The link between mold and PD was recently found by scientists at Rutgers and Emory universities who discovered that a microbial volatile organic compound (MVOC) emitted by mold may be the cause.
The study was conducted by Arati Inamdar and Joan Bennett, who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Inamdar and Bennett specifically studied the effects that the compound, 1-octen-3-ol, otherwise known as mushroom alcohol, had on the movement of fruit flies.
The hypothesis for their research was partly based on the personal experience that Bennett had with mold, who became very ill after her home was flooded and subsequently infested by mold when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005:
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.
Inamdar and Bennet’s research on mushroom alcohol concluded that this compound 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. As stated by Inamdar:
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.
Their discovery is important because it shows a direct link between MVOC’s and PD. Previous research linked PD to pesticides such as paraquat and rotenone commonly used by farmers. Consequently, because PD is increasing in rural areas researchers have concluded that pesticides must be the cause. However, the research of Inamdar and Bennett shows that pesticide may not be the primary cause because residents of rural environments are exposed to a lot of mold and mushrooms. As stated by Inamdar:
Our work suggests that 1-octen-3-ol might also be connected to the disease, particularly for people with a genetic susceptibility to it. We’ve given the epidemiologists some new avenues to explore.
This research further strengthens the argument and link between brain disorders and mold because MVOC’s have a destructive impact on the brain’s ability to transport dopamine, thereby causing neurons to degenerate. This degeneration may be the reason that victims of CIRS experience memory issues, concentration issues, confusion, disorientation, mood swings, vertigo, and tremors.
— Got #Mold?™ (@gotmoldglobal) November 26, 2013