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Helsinki University makes Parkinson’s disease breakthrough

Researchers say certain strains of gut bacteria are the likely cause of Parkinson’s disease.

Hospital research equipment.
Image: Arash Matin / Yle

Scientists at the University of Helsinki on Friday said they had demonstrated that certain strains of Desulfovibrio bacteria are probable causes (siirryt toiseen palveluun) of Parkinson’s disease in most cases.

This finding enables screening carriers of Desulfovibrio strains and subsequently removing the bacteria from the gut. This may make it possible to prevent Parkinson’s disease.

“Our findings are significant, as the cause of Parkinson’s disease has gone unknown despite attempts to identify it throughout the last two centuries. The findings indicate that specific strains of Desulfovibrio bacteria are likely to cause Parkinson’s disease,” professor Per Saris said in a University of Helsinki statement.

Only a fraction of Parkinson’s disease cases are caused by genetic factors, according to Saris.

“The disease is primarily caused by environmental factors, that is, environmental exposure to the Desulfovibrio bacterial strains that cause Parkinson’s disease. Only a small share, or roughly 10 percent, of Parkinson’s disease is caused by individual genes,” he added.

“Our findings make it possible to screen for the carriers of these harmful Desulfovibrio bacteria. Consequently, they can be targeted by measures to remove these strains from the gut, potentially alleviating and slowing the symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease.”

Worldwide, there are some eight million people living with Parkinson’s, according to HU.

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