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This article is the author’s final published version in Journal of Parkinson's Disease, Volume 11, Issue 1, February 2021, Pages 31-43

The published version is available at Copyright © Smeyne et al.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Bacterial or viral infection has been proposed as a potential risk factor, and there is supporting although not entirely consistent epidemiologic and basic science evidence to support its role. Encephalitis caused by influenza has included parkinsonian features. Epidemiological evidence is most compelling for an association between PD and hepatitis C virus. Infection with Helicobacter pylori may be associated not only with PD risk but also response to levodopa. Rapidly evolving knowledge regarding the role of the microbiome also suggests a role of resident bacteria in PD risk. Biological plausibility for the role for infectious agents is supported by the known neurotropic effects of specific viruses, particular vulnerability of the substantia nigra and even the promotion of aggregation of alpha-synuclein. A common feature of implicated viruses appears to be production of high levels of cytokines and chemokines that can cross the blood-brain barrier leading to microglial activation and inflammation and ultimately neuronal cell death. Based on multiple avenues of evidence it appears likely that specific bacterial and particularly viral infections may increase vulnerability to PD. The implications of this for PD prevention requires attention and may be most relevant once preventive treatments for at-risk populations are developed.

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