| End to Parkinson's|
David C. Poskanzer and Robert S. Schwab of Massachusetts General Hospital
predicted in 1961 that Parkinson's disease would all but dis appear by 1980.
Some medical authorities were skeptical, for they had seen no change in the
number of Parkinson's cases over the years. Poskanzer and Schwab have now
reiterated their earlier conclusion, and cite new evidence to support it.
Basis of the Poskanzer-Schwab prediction was an
intensive study that convinced the two researchers
that a majority of Parkinsonism victims developed
the disease as a result of the worldwide epidemic of
encephalitis lethargica that lasted from 1915 to
1926. By 1931, the virus that caused the epidemic
had inexplicably died out, apparently completely.
Many of the epidemic's victims who were mildly
infected suffered delayed nerve damage, the two
doctors believe. In some cases the damage has taken
three or four decades to manifest itself as
Parkinson's disease. If sufferers from the disease
were indeed restricted to victims of the 1915-26
epidemic, the doctors postulated, their numbers
would continue to increase for some 40 years, then
dwindle as the victims died. The average age would
rise as surviving patients grew older.
Poskanzer and Schwab noted that the mean age of
persons newly afflicted with Parkinsonism was 60.6,
compared with 34.7 in 1922 in the midst of the
epidemic. Now, after studying 421 additional
patients, Poskanzer and Schwab have found even more
important evidence to support their theory: none of
the Parkinson's victims they have studied thus far
were born after 1931.