Parkinson disease (PD), a common movement disorder in humans was discovered in 1817 by a British doctor, Dr. James Parkinson. The exact causes of Parkinson disease are poorly understood but recent studies suggest that several environmental agents including microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs), may be involved.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremor, rigidity, slowness and stiffness of muscles; impaired balance and difficulty with walking; loss of volume and clarity of speech; tendency to shuffle when walking; and handwriting difficulty.
Mold as a Possible Cause of Parkinson Disease
Exposure to mold growth has been associated with a negative impact on human health. The most commonly mentioned mold related illnesses are allergic reactions, i.e., mold allergy. Individuals who are susceptible to mold react when they inhale spores and fungal fragments.
Mold allergy symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. The symptoms may include sneezing; runny or stuffy nose; cough; itchy eyes, nose and throat and watery eyes.
As mold and bacteria grow they emit volatile organic compounds (aka microbial volatile organic compounds or MVOCs) responsible for much of the distinctive moldy odor common in water damaged buildings. There are over 200 compounds identified as MVOCs in laboratory experiments.
None these compounds can be regarded as exclusively of microbial origin or as specific for certain microbial species. The health effect often associated with MVOC exposure is eye and upper-airway irritation. However, in human experimental exposure studies, symptoms of irritation have appeared at MVOC concentrations several orders of magnitude higher than those measured in indoor environments.
Published research from Rutgers and Emory universities indicated that 1-octen-3-ol (mushroom alcohol), one of the MVOCs produced by molds in water damaged buildings, could trigger Parkinson disease. The compound was shown to cause changes in fruit flies’ brains similar to those of patients with Parkinson disease. These findings suggest that 1-octen-3-ol may represent a naturally occurring environmental agent involved in development of Parkinson disease. Moreover, it provides possible insights into reported movement disorders associated with human exposure to mold and their volatile organic compounds.
Whether 1-octen-3-ol occurs in water damaged buildings in concentrations high enough to cause Parkinson disease in humans is currently not known.
- Inamdar, Arati A.; Muhammad M. Hossain; Alison I. Bernstein; Gary W. Miller; Jason R. Richardson; and Joan Wennstrom Bennett (2013). Fungal-derived semiochemical 1-octen-3-ol disrupts dopamine packaging and causes neurodegeneration. PNAS 2013; published ahead of print November 11, 2013.
- Korpi, Anne; Jill Järnberg and Anna-Liisa Pasanen(2009). Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, February 2009, Vol. 39, No. 2: Pages 139-193
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