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Parkinson disease and the veterinary profession

I am a 78-year-old veterinarian who, 2 years ago, began taking carbidopa-levodopa for treatment of Parkinson disease (PD). Parkinson disease is the fastest-growing neurologic disorder in the world, estimated to have affected 6.3 million people in 2015 and expected to affect up to 12.9 million people by 2040.1

About 10% of PD cases are thought to be related to genetics, with PD in young people more likely to be genetic in origin than PD in senior citizens, and some cases of PD are related to head trauma.1 However, data overwhelmingly suggest that exposure to pesticides such as paraquat or rotenone, to the nerve agent chlorpyrifos, and to solvents like trichloroethylene can also lead to PD.1,2

In my own case, contending with the motion issues associated with PD is aggravating, but the loss of verbal fluency resulting in slurred speech is even more of a challenge, making it hard for me to communicate and causing some clients to inquire about my weird accent.

My experience leads me to wonder whether veterinarians have a higher incidence of PD than do members of the general population. Is anyone looking? Could repeated exposure to pesticides in flea and tick collars lead to PD?

I would be interested in any information available on the incidence of PD in veterinarians and in other members of the veterinary health-care team.

Joe Cummins, dvm, phd

Edmond, Okla

  • 1.

    Dorsey R, Sherer T, Okun MS, et al. Ending Parkinson's disease: a prescription for action. New York: Hachette Book Group Inc, 2020.

  • 2.

    Hugh-Jones ME, Peel RH, Wilson VL. Parkinson's disease in Louisiana, 1999–2012: based on hospital primary discharge diagnoses, incidence, and risk in relation to local agricultural crops, pesticides and aquifer recharge. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2020;17:1584.

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