Schistosomiasis is a snail-borne parasitic disease that ranks among the most important water-based diseases of humans in developing countries. Increased prevalence and spread of human schistosomiasis to non-endemic areas has been consistently linked with water resource management related to agricultural expansion. However, the role of agrochemical pollution in human schistosome transmission remains unexplored, despite strong evidence of agrochemicals increasing snail-borne diseases of wildlife and a projected 2- to 5-fold increase in global agrochemical use by 2050. Using a field mesocosm experiment, we show that environmentally relevant concentrations of fertilizer, a herbicide, and an insecticide, individually and as mixtures, increase densities of schistosome-infected snails by increasing the algae snails eat and decreasing densities of snail predators. Epidemiological models indicate that these agrochemical effects can increase transmission of schistosomes. Identifying agricultural practices or agrochemicals that minimize disease risk will be critical to meeting growing food demands while improving human wellbeing.
Halstead NT, Hoover CM, Arakala A, Civitello DJ, De Leo GA, Gambhir M, Johnson SA, Jouanard N, Loerns KA, McMahon TA, Ndione RA, Nguyen K, Raffel TR, Remais JV, Riveau G, Sokolow SH, Rohr JR. (2018). Agrochemicals increase risk of human schistosomiasis by supporting higher densities of intermediate hosts. Nature communications, 9(1)