Identification of a common founder couple for 40 South African Afrikaner families with Parkinson’s disease

Geldenhuys, Gerhard ; Glanzmann, Brigitte ; Lombard, Debbie ; Boolay, Sihaam ; Carr, Jonathan ; Bardien, Soraya (2014-06)

Please cite as follows: Geldenhuys, G. et al. 2014. Identification of a common founder couple for 40 South African Afrikaner families with Parkinson’s disease. South African Medical Journal,104(6):413-419, doi:10.7196/SAMJ.7747.

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Background. Afrikaners are a unique ethnic group in South Africa (SA) with well-documented ancestral records spanning a period of over 350 years. They are mainly descended from Dutch, German and French settlers to SA in the 17th and 18th centuries. Today several disorders in this population occur at relatively high frequencies as a result of founder effects. Objective. To determine whether a founder effect for Parkinson’s disease (PD) is present in the Afrikaner population. Methods. Study participants were recruited from the Movement Disorders Clinic at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, SA, and from support groups of the Parkinson’s Association of South Africa. Standard methods for genealogical research in SA on hereditary diseases were used including interviews and searches in sources such as state archives, the Huguenot Museum in Franschhoek, marriage and baptismal records, and tombstone inscriptions. Results. For 40 of the PD families, there was only a single most recent ancestral couple common to all of the families. On average there are between three and four ancestral lines to the founder couple per proband (range 1 -14). Conclusion. If genetic studies confirm the presence of a founder effect for PD in Afrikaners, this would imply that there is a large number of individuals from this ethnic group who may potentially be at risk of developing this debilitating condition. This study illustrates and reinforces the concept that genealogical analysis is a powerful tool for identification of founder effects for various disorders in the Afrikaner population.

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