JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Environmental-occupational risk factors and familial associations in multiple system atrophy: a preliminary investigation.

We studied 60 patients with multiple system atrophy and autonomic failure and 60 control subjects matched for age, sex and race. Their psychosocial history, pedigree and occupation were obtained by personal interview. An inventory of autonomic and neurologic symptoms was obtained from 148 first-degree relatives of the patients and 80 controls by a self-administered questionnaire. Patients with multiple system atrophy had significantly more potential exposures to metal dusts and fumes, plastic monomers and additives, organic solvents, and pesticides than the control population. The potential exposures were determined in most subjects by their reported usual occupation. Clinical symptoms of multiple system atrophy were reported by a significantly larger group of patients' relatives than controls. These findings are possibly consistent with the hypothesis that multiple system atrophy develops as a result of a genetically determined selective vulnerability in the nervous system. Specific neuronal systems may become targets for environmental insults or toxins, and the disease state may occur when ageing neuronal systems can no longer sustain functional capacity. This preliminary study supports the need to further explore possible environmental, occupational, and familial contributions to the aetiology of multiple system atrophy.

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