Research sheds new light on possible causes of Parkinson’s

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Melbourne PR agencies

Photo Credit: Simon O’Dwyer/The Age

Parkinson’s Victoria marks World Parkinson’s Day with release of report findings

To coincide with World Parkinson’s Day, Parkinson’s Victoria has released the key findings of a joint Monash University and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health report uncovering the prevalence of Parkinson’s in a cluster of rural Victorian areas, which highlights the need for further research.

In a survey of the state of Victoria, the researchers identified that four neighbouring local government areas in North West Victoria – Buloke, Horsham, Northern Grampians and Yarriambiack – are exceptions to the rule that Parkinson’s prevalence does not differ between urban and rural locations.

According to researchers, Dr. Darshini Ayton, Dr. Scott Ayton and Dr. Narelle Warren, recorded cases of Parkinson’s were 78% higher than average in Buloke, 76% higher in Horsham, 57% higher in Northern Grampians and 34% higher in Yarriambiack.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that within these four rural regions an increased farming production of barley and pulses (chickpeas, faba beans, lentils and vetches) exists. This correlation has prompted Parkinson’s Victoria to call for further research to better understand the causes of Parkinson’s, including the possible connection between farming practices associated with the production of pulses and an increased risk of Parkinson’s.

“Parkinson’s currently affects over 27,000 people in Victoria and we welcome investment in research projects to learn more about possible causes. This new report – focusing on one possible cause – suggests we should be exploring the potential link between the use of pesticides used in the farming of pulses and an increased risk of Parkinson’s. With a greater understanding of the causal factors that increase the risk of Parkinson’s, we have greater hope of finding a cure” said Emma Collin, CEO, Parkinson’s Victoria.

According to report co-author Dr. Scott Ayton:

“Our approach was to overlay Parkinson’s drug usage across local government areas within Victoria to understand if Parkinson’s prevalence differs between urban and rural locations. We then applied an additional overlay of the intensity of agricultural production for each area to identify if a correlation exists between the risk of Parkinson’s and farming techniques.” said Dr. Scott Ayton, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.

“The four neighbouring areas that we identified as having an unusually high prevalence of Parkinson’s suggests that there is an underlying reason for this increased risk, which warrants further study.” said study co-author Dr. Darshini Ayton, Monash University, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.

The release of the findings falls on World Parkinson’s Day (Monday 11 April 2016) marking the birthday of Dr. James Parkinson, the eighteenth century surgeon who made the world familiar with the condition. The day is an opportunity to highlight the challenges of living with Parkinson’s as well as the research that is taking place to improve the quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s

The researchers released their findings as part of the InSearch: Parkinson’s Research series, which provides the Parkinson’s community with a unique opportunity to gain insights into the latest findings from ground-breaking Australian Parkinson’s research. The full report will be published later this year. The Executive Summary can be found here: www.parkinsonsvic.org.au/prevalence.

For further information or to enquire about funding further research please visit www.parkinsonsvic.org.au.

About Parkinson’s:

Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive neurological condition. Over 27,000 people are living with Parkinson’s in Victoria with more diagnosed every day. Parkinson’s symptoms result from the progressive degeneration of a brain chemical called dopamine. It is a condition that affects the nervous system and alters co-ordination and movement. It also has a range of non-motor symptoms including depression, pain and problems with sleep. Parkinson’s is not fatal or contagious, and there is no known cure.

About Parkinson’s Victoria:

Parkinson’s Victoria raises awareness and funds for services and research to improve the quality of life for the 27,000 people living with Parkinson’s across the state. Every day the multidisciplinary health team provides information, education, advice and peer support to people living with Parkinson’s, their families, carers and health care professionals.

About InSearch:

InSearch is a three-year Parkinson’s research series that provides a unique opportunity for people with Parkinson’s, their families, carers and health professionals to learn about current international and Australian research from leading researchers and clinicians. Launching in Melbourne on Monday 11 April – World Parkinson’s Day – this year’s series will also include public research lectures in Warragul and Shepparton.

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