Is pesticide exposure linked to Alzheimer’s? Scientists are investigating a possible link between the pesticide DDT and Alzheimer’s disease. People who have been exposed to the pesticide DDT were proved to be more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease than those with no traces of the chemical in their blood, researchers discovered in a new study.
The observation does not prove DDT causes Alzheimer’s or that people have been exposed to the chemical will develop the degenerative brain disease, per NY Daily News.
In the complex picture of Alzheimer’s – which has many potential genetic and lifestyle contributors – this may be one more piece to consider, says lead author Jason Richardson.
“If there was a single environmental factor that was contributing to any (neurologic) diseases … that kind of thing is very easy to find. That’s not what we’re saying here,” said Richardson, from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey.
“More than likely you’re looking at complex gene-environment interactions. What we found really gives us a starting off point,” he told Reuters Health. “Now we can use that information to try to understand who is at risk, when and ultimately, why.”
DDT is used in some countries, however was banned from the U.S. in the 1970s. The World Health Organization stands behind the pesticide that is used to help eradicate malaria under certain circumstances.
In a previous small study, Richardson and his colleagues had found levels of DDE – a broken-down form of DDT – were higher than usual in the blood of people who have Alzheimer’s disease.
To gain more knowledge, they analyzed blood samples from 79 people without the disease and 86 people with it.
On average, DDE levels were almost four times higher among people with Alzheimer’s than in the group who did not have the disease, the researchers found.
The researchers plan to explore DDE in other populations, with a larger sample size since the participants in this study were generally patients at Alzheimer’s treatment centers and their family members.
“These conclusions should be considered as preliminary until there is independent confirmation in other populations,” write Dr. Steven T. DeKosky of the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville and Dr. Sam Gandy from the Mount Sinai Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in New York.