Pyrethroid insecticides pose greater risk than organophosphate insecticides to biocontrol agents for human schistosomiasis



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Environmental Pollution






Africa, Contamination, Macrobrachium, Pesticide, Prawns


Use of agrochemicals, including insecticides, is vital to food production and predicted to increase 2–5 fold by 2050. Previous studies have shown a positive association between agriculture and the human infectious disease schistosomiasis, which is problematic as this parasitic disease infects approximately 250 million people worldwide. Certain insecticides might runoff fields and be highly toxic to invertebrates, such as prawns in the genus Macrobrachium, that are biocontrol agents for snails that transmit the parasites causing schistosomiasis. We used a laboratory dose-response experiment and an observational field study to determine the relative toxicities of three pyrethroid (esfenvalerate, ?-cyhalothrin, and permethrin) and three organophosphate (chlorpyrifos, malathion, and terbufos) insecticides to Macrobrachium prawns. In the lab, pyrethroids were consistently several orders of magnitude more toxic than organophosphate insecticides, and more likely to runoff fields at lethal levels according to modeling data. At 31 water contact sites in the lower basin of the Senegal River where schistosomiasis is endemic, we found that Macrobrachium prawn survival was associated with pyrethroid but not organophosphate application rates to nearby crop fields after controlling for abiotic and prawn-level factors. Our laboratory and field results suggest that widely used pyrethroid insecticides can have strong non-target effects on Macrobrachium prawns that are biocontrol agents where 400 million people are at risk of human schistosomiasis. Understanding the ecotoxicology of high-risk insecticides may help improve human health in schistosomiasis-endemic regions undergoing agricultural expansion.

Open Access

Green Accepted