The experiments involving the microscopic worm can shed light on Roundup’s effect on humans because the worm has genes which are similar to those in humans.
(CN) — A microscopic worm that feeds on bacteria and contains genes which share counterparts with humans experienced extended seizures following exposure at varying levels to the weed-killer Roundup, according to new research released Tuesday.
German chemical giant Bayer made waves in February when it announced it will pay up to $2 billion in a federal class action settlement that would resolve future claims that glyphosate — the main ingredient in Roundup, the popular pesticide it manufactures — causes cancer.
The settlement covers people who were exposed to Roundup and later developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma and those who may develop the cancer later due to prior exposure.
Researchers from Florida Atlantic University went to work on answering a related scientific question: What are the pesticides’ potential neurological effects when mammals are exposed to it?
For the study, scientists elected to use the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, a microscopic worm found in soil which feeds on bacteria. The worm has been used extensively since the 1960s in research because nearly 40% of its genes have counterparts in humans, meaning results can elaborate our understanding of human biology.
Researchers then exposed the roundworms to varying levels of Roundup glyphosate doses and saline control doses. Then, seizures were induced and scientists measured the time it took for worms to return to a normal state.
The duration of the convulsive reaction in worms doubled when they were exposed to Roundup, according to the study presented Tuesday at the American Physiological Society‘s annual meeting at the Experimental Biology 2021 conference.
The doses of Roundup given to the worms was 1,000 times less than levels approved for human use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
During some of the trials, researchers administered sodium valproate — an anti-epileptic drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — to the worms. As it had when given to humans, the drug alleviated worms of some of the harshest effects of glyphosate exposure.
Study lead author Akshay Naraine of Florida Atlantic University said in a statement released with the study that results could shape policies on where and how the weed-killer is used.
“The broader implications of our work raise serious concern over the ecological impact that trace concentrations of glyphosate pose to invertebrate organisms in the soil,” Naraine said. “Taken in a translational light, these findings spur further exploration into how glyphosate and Roundup affect seizure and behavioral symptomology in mammals.”
Naraine said in the statement more studies are needed to examine the full extent of Roundup’s damage to mammals’ physiological and behavioral health.
Researchers did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on the study.