Coronavirus raises risk of developing Parkinson’s disease

(ORDO NEWS) — In early 2020, as the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus swept the world, scientists warned of a potential surge in neurodegenerative diseases in the coming years.

A new study led by scientists from Thomas Jefferson University and New York University is trying to understand how SARS-CoV-2 may increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Richard Smain, the study’s first author, said the most common explanation is called the “multi-hit hypothesis.”

A viral infection does not directly cause a neurodegenerative disease, but instead it makes the brain more susceptible to other risk factors that can trigger the disease.

Smain’s previous study showed that mice infected with the H1N1 influenza virus are more likely to undergo neurodegeneration when exposed to MPTP, a molecule used to mimic Parkinson’s disease-like neurodegeneration in animal models. MPTP particularly affects dopamine-producing neurons in the basal ganglia, so it has been consistently used for several years as a way to model Parkinson’s degeneration in animal studies.

Smein and colleagues suggest that the neuroinflammation caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection may make certain neurons more vulnerable to subsequent attacks, increasing the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

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