The Viral Hypothesis in Parkinson’s Disease and in Alzheimer’s Disease

A Critique
  • Teresita S. Elizan
  • Jordi Casals


The most crucial unanswered question in Parkinson’s disease is its fundamental cause. Since Carlsson’s original suggestion that dopamine may be a transmitter in the central nervous system involved in the control of motor function and that it may be involved in the parkinsonian syndrome (Carlsson, 1959) and the now-classic paper by Ehringer and Hornykiewicz (1960) that definitively showed the significant reduction of dopamine concentration in the neostriatum of cases of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease and postencephalitic parkinsonism, the vast amount of work on the subject has focused on the biochemical and pharmacological correlates of this dopaminergic system failure involving particularly the nigrostriatal pathways. The concept of a specific neurotransmitter deficiency associated with a specific neurological syndrome potentially amenable to replacement therapy has appropriately generated a considerable degree of clinical and research interest for almost 25 years, but, with few recent exceptions, there has been hardly any focused or conceited research effort on looking at direct causal factors or primary initiating events in this disease process. As in Alzheimer’s disease (discussed in Section 2), another of the degenerative diseases of the brain of unknown origin with a specific biochemical substrate, any etiologic hypothesis for Parkinson’s disease—whether an age-related immune system dysfunction, a genetic factor, a missing —trophic— substance, an exogenous or endogenous toxin, or a virus (conventional or unconventional)—would have to explain the selective involvement of specific transmitter-defined neuronal pathways, the relative nonspecificity of the brain lesions that define the disease, and the clinical involvement of a sizable segment of the aging population.


Influenza Virus Herpes Simplex Virus Type Measle Virus Central Nervous System Lymphoma Swine Influenza Virus 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresita S. Elizan
    • 1
  • Jordi Casals
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neurology (Laboratory of Neurovirology)The Mount Sinai School of Medicine of the City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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