Researchers were searching for both prevalent cases (the number of people currently living with Parkinson's) and incident cases (the number of people each year newly diagnosed with the disease). "Based on this algorithm," Dr. Peretz explains, "we identified about 7,000 Parkinson's disease prevalent cases and about 5,000 incident cases in the study period."
These results, notes Dr. Peretz, represented a departure from previously accepted statistics and confirmed her suspicions. The team determined that the prevalence rate for the population was one percent for patients over 50 years of age, two percent for those over 60, and three percent for ages 70 and above twice the previous estimation. In addition, the mean age at time of first diagnosis was found to be around 70 years, rather than 60 years.
To confirm the results, Dr. Peretz and her fellow researchers carried out a validity test with Maccabi patients at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center's Movement Disorder Clinic. The algorithm managed to accurately identify 95 percent of the patients, she says.
A warning for public health professionals
Dr. Peretz points to misdiagnoses as one of the causes of poor information on Parkinson's. Not only is the prevalence rate of Parkinson's higher than previously thought, but the rate is growing by six percent yearly. There are on average 33 new cases for every 100,000 people per year. This spells trouble for governmental public health agencies, which will shoulder a heavier burden than they expected in the coming years. "It's a disease that costs a lot, the expectation of life is growing, and we have to prepare," warns Dr. Peretz. "Public health institutions have a responsibility to be aware that these needs will arise."
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University