For many years Guam has been the focus of major studies, as a neurological disease known as ALS-PDC, which exhibits itself with symptoms and fatigues in common with Lou Gehrig's, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. The presence of the disease in the population of the Chamorro increased at alarming rates, and then just as mysteriously, decreased. Investigations have looked at everything from the water they drink to the air they breathe, but no solid evidence has been linked to the disorders.
Earlier studies that showed the toxins of the cycad plant caused neurological disorders. The Chamorros knew of the plant's toxicity as well. Although they ate part of the cycad in the form of flour in tortillas, the plants were washed repeatedly, and the amount of toxin they were exposed to was minimal, even on a repetitive bases.
Paul Cox, Director of the National Botanical Gardens in Kauai Hawaii, and Oliver Sacks of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, first proposed a connection between the disease and flying foxes in a recent paper in the journal Neurology, where they hypothesized that the consumption of flying foxes may be the source of the ALS-PDC disorder. The bats are known to forage on cycad seeds, which contain much higher levels of neurotoxin then the rest of the plant. According to Cox, "when the people consume the animals, the effects of the toxin could
Contact: Annie Drinkard
Ecological Society of America