Research: pesticides accelerate the spread of deadly aquatic pathogens

Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley found that the use of pesticides and other

Agrochemicals can accelerate the transmission of schistosomiasis, while disrupting the ecological balance in the aquatic environment that prevents infection.

Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms,which develop and reproduce inside freshwater snails and are transmitted by contact with contaminated water. This infection can lead to liver and kidney damage, and it affects millions of people every year.

Research Published in The LancetPlanetary Health has shown that agrochemicals can enhance the transmission of schistosome worms in several ways: by directly affecting the survival of the parasite in the water, by eliminating aquatic predators that feed on the parasite-carrying snails, and by changing the composition of algae in the water, which are the main food source for snails.

“We already knew that the construction of dams andthe expansion of irrigation networks increases the spread of schistosomiasis in low-income settings, disrupting freshwater ecosystems. But we were shocked at how easily we were able to prove the link between pollution and increased transmission of schistosomiasis, ”the researchers noted.

Scientists have additionally studied a thousand studiesand found 144 experiments that link agrochemical concentrations to components of the schistosome's life cycle. They then incorporated this data into a mathematical model that captures the transmission dynamics of the parasite. The model estimates the concentration of agrochemicals after application in agricultural fields and calculates their effect on infections in the human population.

The researchers found that even lowpesticide concentrations, including atrazine, glyphosate, and chlorpyrifos, can increase the rate of transmission of schistosomiasis. In communities in the Senegal River Basin in West Africa, disease rates from agrochemical contamination were on a par with those from lead exposure, high dietary sodium and low physical activity.

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