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Your Environment. Your Health.

Parkinson’s Disease, Pesticides, and the Gut Microbiome

Partnerships for Environmental Public Education (PEPH)

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Parkinson’s Disease, Pesticides, and the Gut Microbiome

December 16, 2021

Interviewee: Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D.

This episode explores how the environment, gut microbiome, and brain interact to influence the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease. We’ll also hear how better understanding these complex interactions can help scientists develop interventions to slow, or even stop, progression of the disease.
(Image Credit: Darryl Leia, NHGRI)

Parkinson’s Disease, Pesticides, and the Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome, comprised of trillions of bacteria and other microbes, affects many aspects of human health, including the brain. These microbes break down and metabolize compounds in the body, including food and chemicals from a person’s environment. This process can make chemicals more or less toxic. Some of the compounds released by the gut microbiome can travel to and enter the brain, where they may promote brain health or play a role in the development of neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Research suggests that the bacteria in the gut of people with Parkinson’s disease differs from those without the disease. Additionally, people often experience gastrointestinal issues decades before they are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, further suggesting the gut may play a role in development of the disease.

In this podcast we’ll hear from Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D., who talks about how the environment, gut microbiome, and brain interact to influence the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease. She also discusses how better understanding these complex interactions can help scientists develop interventions to slow, or even stop, progression of the disease.

Interviewee: Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D.

Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D.

Beate Ritz, M.D., Ph.D., is an environmental epidemiologist and professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with co-appointments in the UCLA environmental health and neurology departments. Her research focuses on the role of environmental exposures, such as pesticides and air pollution, in Parkinson’s disease and other chronic diseases.

Funded by NIEHS, Ritz leads the Parkinson’s, Environment, and Genes study to examine how agricultural pesticides and genes interact to increase susceptibility to Parkinson's disease. Launched in 2001, this was the first federally funded study of Parkinson's disease focused on rural populations. With additional support from NIEHS, Ritz is now examining how pesticide exposure alters the gut microbiome of Parkinson's disease patients.

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