An estimated 3.5 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, a contagious liver disease that can lead to cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. Meanwhile, an estimated one million Americans live with the progressive movement disorder of Parkinson’s disease. For the first time, research indicates that these two conditions could be linked.
With Parkinson’s disease, there is a malfunctioning and dying off of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Over time, dopamine production in the brain plummets and the afflicted individual is left unable to control their body movements, leading to tremors, slow movement, rigid limbs, and loss of balance and coordination.
Over a period of 10 years, researchers tracked and analyzed the health data from nearly 250,000 individuals from a Taiwan health insurance database (including 50,000 individuals infected with hepatitis). Evidence emerged linking hepatitis C infection as a significant risk factor for the later development of Parkinson’s disease.
The cause underlying the connection between these two diseases has been hinted at by prior research suggesting that HCV could trigger neuron death. Although additional research is warranted, the association demonstrated between HCV and Parkinson’s disease represents yet another reason why the prompt screening and treatment of hepatitis C infection remains so important.
Stephen C. Vogt, Pharm.D.
President and CEO
BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy
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Ciccone A. Hepatitis C infection linked to Parkinson’s risk. Neurology Advisor March 4, 2016.
Lee CZ, Yen RF, Kao CH. Hepatitis C virus infection as a risk factor for Parkinson disease. Neurology 2016;86;840-846.