The cost of atmospheric pollution to health estimated at 1-2 billion annually

In France, the total cost of pollution to health is estimated at between €1 billion and approximately €2 billion/year, according to a study conducted by Isabella Annesi Maesano, a research director at Inserm, and her colleagues (Inserm Unit 1136, Epidemiology of Allergic and Respiratory Diseases). In other words, 15-31% of the 2012 deficit (€5.5 billion) for the health insurance branch of France’s general social security scheme.

The object of this study was to approximate as closely as possible the share of the costs attributable to air pollution of the total paid by the health system for the five most common respiratory disorders (COPD, chronic and acute bronchitis, asthma and respiratory tract cancer), hospitalisation for these pathologies, and hospitalisation associated with cardiovascular disease. These costs are generated when the patient is receiving care under the healthcare system (cost of consultations, treatments, tests or hospitalisation). The study also attempted to estimate the costs of social benefits paid to patients, and those associated with sick leave related to these diseases.

For the authors of this study, in a context of responding to a major public health impact (low individual risk, but affecting the entire population), and regulatory requirements for air quality (European directives transposed into French law), a better knowledge of the costs generated by air pollution for the French healthcare system may represent an important consideration when formulating public health policy.

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Saturday 11 April: World Parkinson’s Day

In France, Parkinson’s disease affects more than 150 000 people[1], and there are 6.5 million sufferers in the world, a figure set to increase as the population ages.

World Parkinson’s Day is taking place on 11 April, in memory of the anniversary of the birth of Dr James Parkinson, the first physician to describe the symptoms of this degenerative disease, in 1817.  

A condition that is still of largely unknown cause, Parkinson’s disease is characterised by progressive degeneration of the neurons that produce dopamine. The symptoms are motor-related, with tremor being the best known, but they also include slowness of movement, a feeling of stiffness, difficulty with writing, and pains.

This year, the day is specifically devoted to interruptions in care, and is an opportunity to remind the general public that Parkinson’s disease is not a rare disease. Thus, throughout France, public institutions and associations, especially the France Parkinson association, are taking initiatives to welcome the public and inform them about this serious condition.

Throughout the year, researchers from Inserm work hard to better understand this disease and develop new therapies.

In particular, Inserm Unit 1084, Experimental and Clinical Neurosciences Laboratory,” is working to develop cellular therapies to repair the brain lesions seen in Parkinson’s disease. The first results have been successful in animals. The researchers are now trying to obtain other sources of cells capable of developing into neurons that may be transplanted to repair the injured brain.

Read the press release about this team recent findings: «Repairing the cerebral cortex: it can be done »


Meanwhile, the members of Inserm Unit 1127, “Brain and Spinal Cord Institute,” are interested in the molecular and genetic mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease. A better understanding of the cause of neuronal death should make it possible to identify new symptomatic and curative therapies.

Finally, Benjamin Dehay, Inserm researcher, and his team at Joint Research Unit 5293, “Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases, are working on the cellular and molecular bases for the processes underlying movement impairments in Parkinson’s disease and atypical parkinsonian syndromes (20% of syndromes). They are mainly focusing on the mechanisms that lead to the total loss of response to L-dopamine in these atypical syndromes.

For your interviews and reporting requirements, you can find all specialist contacts at Inserm in the “Parkinson press-kit” available as a download opposite.

[1] Source: DREES (Directorate for Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics), Étude sur l’état de santé de la population en France, édition 2015 (Study on the State of Health of the French Population, 2015 Edition).

Reducing risks among drug users

In order to limit the health risks associated with the use of drugs, certain countries have set up supervised injection centres where drug addicts can inject under the supervision of qualified personnel.

In 2010, the French General Health Administration asked Inserm to perform a collective report on the theme of Reducing the risks in drug users. The aim was to report on what scientific knowledge we had of existing schemes and programmes on an international scale, the contexts in which they were set up and their impact on the experimental projects in progress.

More than ten experts (epidemiologists, sociologists, addictologists, etc.) studied in particular how these centres had been set up in neighbouring countries such asSpain,Switzerland,Germany, the impact of these schemes and the projects in progress.


Antiplatelet agents help reduce the severity of flu

Platelets play a role in severe lung infections associated with flu viruses. This has been highlighted for the first time by a team of researchers from France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research (Inra), National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and Claude Bernard (Lyon 1) University in their research published on 1 April 2015 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Their findings show that antiplatelet drugs are an effective support treatment for severe forms of flu.

Each year, flu epidemics are responsible for 3 to 5 million cases of serious illness worldwide and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths, primarily among high-risk groups (the very young, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses). In severe flu cases, the lungs suffer excessive, damaging inflammation.

Researchers from Inra, Inserm and Claude Bernard (Lyon 1) University studied the role of platelets[1] during flu infections in mice. Their aim was to understand the mechanisms responsible for the excessive lung inflammation that occurs in the most severe cases. They discovered a mass influx of aggregated, activated platelets, highlighting for the first time the recruitment of platelets during processes linked to the severity of lung infections.

The same team then went on to demonstrate the link between platelet activation in the lungs and overactivation of inflammatory processes. When platelets are overactivated, mortality is higher. Conversely, mice with a platelet function deficiency were protected.

Lastly, the team demonstrated that antiplatelet agents had a beneficial effect on excessive lung inflammation. The researchers tested four different antiplatelet drugs on the mice (two of them already on the market) and three different strains of influenza virus. These were human strains modified to induce severe flu and pneumonia in the mice.

After a median lethal dose of virus was given (level that will kill 50%), antiplatelet agents administered locally or intranasally resulted in almost 100% survival.

 This research therefore suggests that antiplatelet drugs, which already exist in the treatment arsenal, could be used to develop effective anti-inflammatory treatments for severe flu infections. These biological research results could lead on to clinical research to assess the possibility of achieving the same results in human beings.


Lung tissue slices studied under an electron microscope. Mice infected with flu virus were treated intranasally with a solution containing an antiplatelet agent (right) or the solution without the agent (left). The formation of large masses of activated, aggregated platelets, as seen in the lungs of the control mice (left), was prevented in the mice given the antiplatelet agent (right), thus reducing inflammation and promoting survival. © Elisabeth Errazuriz-Cerda, CIQLE

[1] Platelets are blood cells that prevent excessive blood loss through their essential role in clot formation.