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Pesticides and the Microbiome

Pesticides and the Microbiome
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From the Environmental Health Symposium

The human microbiome, often referred to as the driver of human physiology, has crucial roles in many systems of the body: 

  • stimulating immune system development and homeostasis,
  • maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier, 
  • retrieving otherwise inaccessible nutrients from the diet, 
  • synthesizing essential vitamins and neurotransmitters, 
  • altering the production of intestinal hormones, 
  • stimulating bone density, and 
  • participating in both drug biotransformation and toxicant excretion. 

Altered gut microbiomes are associated with a long list of diseases including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, liver cirrhosis, and neurologic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease

Environmental toxicants like arsenic, triclosan, PCBs and organophosphate pesticides have been shown to significantly alter the gut microbiome. Organophosphate pesticides represent the most common exposures of all currently used pesticides – 70% of all pesticides used today fall into this class.  One organophosphate in particular, diazinon, has been shown to damage the gut microbiome and the immune system as a result. Diazinon is a common insecticide used in conventional agriculture and has been detected in groundwater, agricultural wells, and drinking water.  Humans are exposed through pesticide residue on nonorganic foods and drinking water contamination

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