In the Somme department, a village has had, in around fifteen years, no less than 5 cases of Charcot disease. How can we explain this phenomenon with a disease that is normally so rare? TipsForWomens interviewed Dr Wilfrid Casseron, neurologist in Aix-en-Provence, to find out more.
It is a rare disease, which nevertheless claimed five victims in a short time, all living in the same village of Saint-Vaast-en-Chaussée, in the Somme department. This pathology is Charcot disease, which is also called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.
An investigation launched by Public Health Europe
The Regional Health Agency, faced with this rather unprecedented situation, has chosen to contact Public Health Europe, to “determine whether there is in fact a statistical excess of diseases in the observed population”.
The objective of this investigation is therefore to try to understand the death of these five people, all caused by the appearance of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis “between 2007 and 2022”. And disturbing fact: in addition to living in the same village, four of the people affected lived on the same street and the fifth in a parallel street.
“We must go beyond the immediate connection that the brain can make in such situations”
To try to see more clearly, TipsForWomens interviewed Dr Wilfrid Casseron, a neurologist in Aix-en-Provence. Is there a possibility of clarifying this situation and determining its cause(s)? For the doctor, several elements must be remembered.
“I would first like to remind you that this is not the first time that we have encountered this type of “clusters” with several people presenting the same pathology, not only in ALS but also in cases of Parkinson’s disease. , for example or for cancers” he explains first of all.
“Beyond the primary observation, we must succeed in overcoming the primary instinct of our brain, which pushes us to see a link between the street and illness. We must remember that correlation is not causation, the fact that they live on the same street should not frighten other residents.” adds the doctor.
Can environmental causes explain ALS?
Charcot disease, a very serious and disabling neurodegenerative pathology, remains rare and its causes are still poorly understood. According to the Hospices Civils de Lyon (HCL) website, the annual incidence of Charcot’s disease is “2.7 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants” and the “lifetime risk of developing ALS is estimated at 1/350 for men and 1/400 for women“.
And as Wilfrid Casseron confirms: To this day, “no connection with one or more environmental factors has not been proven“. “This doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but they will be very difficult to prove. A retrospective study should be carried out, which would study the entire life of these patients, in order to determine what they were exposed to…. It’s almost impossible.”.
The only element known to date to be a risk factor for ALS is excessive sport. “Great athletes have been affected by the disease. In the United States, ALS is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the name of a famous baseball player who was affected by this disease.