Pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in cerebrospinal fluid of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients: a case-control study

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Neurotoxic chemicals including several pesticides have been suggested to play a role in the etiology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We investigated the relation between organochlorine pesticides and their metabolites (OCPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the etiology of sporadic ALS, determining for the first time their levels in cerebrospinal fluid as indicator of antecedent exposure.

We recruited 38 ALS patients and 38 controls referred to an Italian clinical center for ALS care, who underwent a lumbar puncture for diagnostic purposes between 1994–2013, and had 1 mL of cerebrospinal fluid available for the determination of OCPs, PCBs and PAHs.

Many chemicals were undetectable in both case and control CSF samples, and we found little evidence of any increased disease risk according to higher levels of exposure. Among males >60 years, we found a slight but statistically very unstable increased ALS risk with higher levels of the congener PCB 28 and the OCP metabolite p,p'-DDE.

Overall, these results do not suggest an involvement of the neurotoxic chemicals investigated in this study in disease etiology, although small numbers limited the precision of our results.

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