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Tobacco virus may help prevent Parkinson's

The same tobacco leaves that kill hundreds of thousands of smokers every year may hold the key to preventing Parkinson’s disease, according to new research from the University of Louisville.

University researchers say their findings stem from the puzzling question of why smoking appears to lower the risk for developing the devastating brain disorder.

The answer involves the tobacco mosaic virus, or TMV, which attacks plants such as tobacco, said Dr. Robert Friedland, a clinical and research neurologist at the University of Louisville.

The TMV apparently causes antibodies that “may be protective against Parkinson’s,” Friedland said by telephone from Granada, Spain, where he spoke about his findings last week at the International Congress on Autoimmunity. “No one has documented before that people have antibodies to TMV.”

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