Married ... With Lou Gehrig's Disease
WebMD News Archive
"The risk of ALS is one in one million, and there are 20 million
[married] couples in France," he says. "However, we have found nine
cases in nine years." The researchers believe this happens because of the
environment the couples share, rather than because of genetic factors. Just to
be safe, however, Camu and his co-investigators are now studying the children
of these nine couples to determine if there is also a genetic factor they can
"It is always interesting to speculate what [results like these] might
mean," says Robin L. Brey, MD, associate professor of neurology at the
University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
According to Brey, who reviewed the study for WebMD, some diseases are
partial to certain ethnic groups, "so you always wonder if there's a
genetic aspect in terms of the husband and wife being [distantly] related,"
she says. The findings may also "suggest a possible infectious process, or
environmental exposure when they were children," she says -- with the
effects being postponed for many years.
"This study has important implications for patients and for care,"
says Brey. The finding of an environmental toxin would be "a major
breakthrough, because it [could ultimately] allow us to prevent the [nerve]
damage that causes ALS."
- French researchers report they have found nine married couples where both
husband and wife have a rare nerve disorder called amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease).
- ALS causes the nerves serving the muscles to continue to break down. At
first, it causes twitching and slurred speech Within five years, patients
usually develop fatal breathing problems when the disease involves those
- In the new report, the couples were married an average of 20 years before
one spouse was struck with ALS. The other partner got the disease an average of
eight years later, but doctors don't know why. Other nerve diseases have been
shown to affect both spouses, but this is the first time it has been seen with