Is the Flu a Contributing Factor to Parkinson’s Disease?

An interesting bit of info from the New York Times about a possible link between influenza and Parkinson’s disease.

“For decades, neurologists have suspected there may be a link between the flu and Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive disorder of the nervous system marked by problems with movement, cognitive changes and a range of other symptoms. Several earlier studies, for example, reported a sharp increase in Parkinson’s cases following the 1918 influenza pandemic. Some cases of Parkinson’s have been linked to environmental exposures to pesticides and other toxic chemicals, and genetics may also play a role, but most cases of Parkinson’s have no known cause.”

As with so many of these studies, we have to separate correlation from causation. That becomes exceptionally hard in a case like this because it’s almost impossible to find an adult who hasn’t had the flu at some point in their lives. Therefore finding a control group to compare the data to is incredibly difficult in a larger experimental study.

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