Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is associated with a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, Medscape reports. Publishing their findings in the journal Neurology, researchers conducted a nationwide population-based cohort study based on data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database of 50,000 people with viral hepatitis, covering the period from 2000 to 2010. The study also included 200,000 people without viral hepatitis as a comparison group.

The viral hepatitis cohort was divided between those with hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and those coinfected with HBV and HCV.

During an average 12 years of follow-up, 270 people with viral hepatitis developed Parkinson’s disease, including 120 people with hep C. In the comparison group, 1,060 people developed Parkinson’s.

After adjusting the data for age, sex and other illnesses, the researchers found that hep C infection alone was associated with a 30 percent increased likelihood of developing Parkinson’s. The investigators did not identify a statistically significant association between hep B or HBV/HCV coinfection and Parkinson’s.

“Many factors clearly play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease, including environmental factors,” study author Chia-Hung Kao, MD, China Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan, said in a press release. “This nationwide study 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.”

To read the press release, click here.

To read the Medscape article, click here (free registration with the site is required).

To read the study abstract, click here.