Individuals infected with hepatitis C are at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. Researchers suggest that the hepatitis C virus is neurotropic, which means that the virus can infect neurons and replicate in the central nervous system, triggering death of these brain cells that results to Parkinson’s.

"Many factors clearly play a role in the development of Parkinson's disease, including environmental factors," study author Chia-Hung Kao said in a press release. "This nationwide study using the National Health Insurance Research Database of Taiwan suggests that hepatitis caused specifically by the hepatitis C virus may increase the risk of developing the disease. More research is needed to investigate this link."

The researchers analysed data of 49,967 people with either hepatitis B or C or both together and compared it with 199,868 people without the disease from 2000 through 2010 as per data taken from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database. The team followed-up these participants for an average of 12 years to monitor the development of Parkinson’s.

The researchers found that 270 participants developed Parkinson’s, of whom 120 had hepatitis C. The findings concluded that participants with hepatitis C were at 30 percent higher risk of developing the neurologic disorder. Plus, participants with hepatitis B and those with both hepatitis B and C had a similar risk as those without the viruses for developing Parkinson’s even after other possible factors have been taken into account.

Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks the liver, spread through any type of blood‐to‐blood contact. Hepatitis Australia claims that approximately 230,500 Australians are living with chronic hepatitis C. Twenty-five percent of those living with chronic hepatitis have moderate to severe liver disease. If left untreated, liver cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure will occur. Sharing needles is the main route for hepatitis C transmission. It may take years before symptoms of the disease emerge.

Accordingly, 15 percent of Australians with chronic hepatitis C have not yet been diagnosed. There is no vaccine available for this illness but in many cases, hepatitis C can be cured. Since April 2013, the cure rate for hepatitis C has been 75 percent.

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