Parkinson’s Disease Risk Seen to Rise in People with Hepatitis C

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by Kara Elam |

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Parkinson's disease study

Evidence has shown a potential connection between chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Parkinson’s disease (PD). In a recent study, investigators sought to determine if the disease was, in fact, a significant risk factor for Parkinson’s development. Their findings, in a study titled “Hepatitis C virus infection as a risk factor for Parkinson disease: A nationwide cohort study” and published in the online edition of the American Academy of Neurology’s journal, Neurology, appear to support an increased risk.

Researchers utilized records from a national health insurance database in Taiwan to look at the healthcare history of approximately 50,000 people newly diagnosed with hepatitis between 2000 and 2010. Of these, 71% were diagnosed with hepatitis B, 21% with hepatitis C, and 8% with both viruses. The research team then set a comparison group of almost 200,000 individuals without hepatitis, and followed both groups over an average of 12 years.

Over those years, researchers found that a total of 270 patients, regardless of hepatitis type, went on to develop Parkinson’s disease, including 120 patients with hepatitis C, and that 1,060 individuals in the comparison group, who did not have hepatitis, also developed PD.

After controlling for differences with regard to age, sex, diabetes, and cirrhosis, they also observed:

  • Patients with HCV were nearly 30% more likely to develop Parkinson’s than people who did not have hepatitis;
  • Patients with hepatitis B, or with both the B and C versions of the virus, were no more likely to develop PD than people without hepatitis.

Dr. Chia-Hung Kao, MD, China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan and study author, said in a press release, “Many factors clearly play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease, including environmental factors. This nation-wide study, using the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan, suggests that hepatitis caused specifically by the hepatitis C virus may increase the risk of developing the disease. More research is needed to investigate this link.”