Is Chronic Exposure to Raw Water a Possible Risk Factor for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis? A Pilot Case-Control Study


Background: The etiopathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is still largely unknown.

Methods: We performed a case-control study (33 cases and 35 controls) in Umbria, Italy. We investigated associations between common lifestyle, clinical factors, as well as environmental exposures potentially implicated with ALS onset. Face-to-face interviews were carried out. All cases were recruited and diagnosed according to El Escorial criteria. Case-control comparisons were made for educational and residential status, occupational exposures, and clinical and lifestyle factors prior to cases’ dates of diagnosis.

Results: Our results showed an increased risk of ALS for subjects chronically exposed to raw water use (odds ratio (OR) = 6.55, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.24-19.12). Garden activities showed a tight association with ALS as well, very likely as a consequence of chronic raw water exposure. Indeed, we could exclude an impact for pesticides, as no significant differences were observed in pesticide exposure in the two groups interviewed. However, cases were more often exposed to fertilizers. After adjustment for age, sex, and heavy physical activities, exposure to raw water was still associated with increased ALS risk (OR = 4.74, 95% CI: 1.33-16.85).

Discussion: These findings suggest an association between ALS and exposure to raw water, which should be further investigated for the presence of chemicals interfering with nervous system functionality.

Authors: Giuseppe Stipa, Antonio Ancidoni, Monica Mazzola, Emanuela Testai, Enzo Funari, Cristina Spera, Cinzia Fanelli, Alessia Mancini, Nicola Vanacore
; Full Source: Brain sciences 2021 Feb 5;11(2):193. doi: 10.3390/brainsci11020193.