Scientists have discovered a link between the world’s most widely used herbicide and seizures in animals, which also raises questions about the herbicide’s potential impact on the human nervous system.
Exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, increased seizure-like behavior in soil-dwelling roundworms, according to the researchers, who published their findings Tuesday in Scientific Reports.
With glyphosate use expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, understanding its potential effects on human health is critical, according to the study.
“It’s troubling how little we understand about the impact of glyphosate on the nervous system,” lead author Akshay Naraine, Ph.D. candidate at Florida Atlantic University and the Max Planck International Research School for Synapses and Circuits, he said in a statement.
“More evidence is mounting about the prevalence of glyphosate exposure, so this work will hopefully push other researchers to expand on these findings and solidify where our concerns should be,” added Naraine.
Last month, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that more than 80 percent of the urine sampled by the agency was at or above the detection limit for glyphosate, as report The Hill.
Bayer, which makes Roundup, has faced thousands of lawsuits alleging the product causes cancer. While the International Agency for Research on Cancer considered glyphosate a “probable” carcinogen in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency said in 2020 that there was insufficient evidence to show that the chemical is a probable or probable carcinogen.
In Tuesday’s study, Naraine and his colleagues said they used the roundworm C. elegans to test the effects of glyphosate alone and both the US formulation of Roundup and the UK product from two different periods.
The two windows in question were before and after 2016, when the UK banned a surfactant, called polyethoxylated seboamine, which had been in the previous formulation.
These varying conditions, the scientists explained, helped them identify which effects were specific to the active ingredient glyphosate.
Finally, the authors found that glyphosate exacerbated seizures C. elegans and concluded that a receptor protein called GABA-A was the neurological target of the observed physiological changes. In humans, these receptors are essential for locomotion and contribute to the regulation of sleep and mood, according to the authors.
Scientists often study C. elegans to gain an understanding of human disease and development, as they share a common ancestor.
The data revealed a significant distinction between exposure to glyphosate alone and Roundup, with exposure to Roundup increasing the percentage of C. elegans who did not recover from seizure activity, according to the study.
The scientists also used significantly lower levels of glyphosate and Roundup than suggested on the product: more than 300 times less herbicide than the lowest concentration recommended for the consumer.
However, they found that the roundworms convulsed at concentrations that were 1,000 times more diluted than concentrations previously considered toxic, according to the study.
“Given the widespread use of these products, we need to learn as much as we can about the potential negative impacts that may exist,” said Ken Dawson-Scully, professor of neurobiology and Naraine’s faculty mentor. , in a statement.
“Studies have been done in the past that showed the potential dangers, and our study goes one step further with some pretty dramatic results,” added Dawson-Scully, who also serves as senior vice president and associate provost at the Nova Southeastern University. .
Roundworms already experience seizures when they encounter heat stress, and these new findings show that exposure to glyphosate and Roundup can exacerbate these impacts, Naraine said.
“This could prove vital as we experience the effects of climate change,” Naraine said.
Dawson-Scully acknowledged that, at this time, there is no idea “how exposure to glyphosate and Roundup may affect humans diagnosed with epilepsy or other seizure disorders.”
“Our study indicates that there is a significant disruption in locomotion and should prompt further studies in vertebrates,” he said.
The Hill has reached out to Bayer for comment.