Tuesday January 21, 2020

Here’s Why Man-made Pesticides Affect Marine Animals More

The study calls for monitoring our waterways to learn more about the impact of pesticides and agricultural run-off on marine mammals.

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Marine animals are more vulnerable to man-made pesticides. Flickr

Marine mammals such as dolphins, manatees, seals and whales, which evolved to make water their primary habitat, lost the ability to make a gene that defends humans and other land-dwelling mammals from the neurotoxic effects of a popular human-made pesticide, a new study has revealed.

The researchers found that the marine mammals lost the gene Paraoxonase 1 (PON1) that effectively defends humans and other terrestrial mammals from organophosphates — a group of man-made insecticides.

PON1 potentially reduces cellular damage caused by unstable oxygen atoms and also protects us from organophosphates that kills by disrupting neurological systems.

Whales and dolphins lost the gene PON1 soon after they split from their common ancestor with hippopotamuses 53 million years ago; manatees lost it after their split from their common ancestor with elephants 64 million years ago.

Marine life
Whales and dolphins lost the gene PON1. VOA

But some seals likely lost PON1 function more recently, at most 21 million years ago and possibly in very recent times.

“The big question is, why did they lose function at PON1 in the first place? It’s hard to tell whether it was no longer necessary or whether it was preventing them from adapting to a marine environment,” said lead author Wynn K. Meyer, postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh in the US.

“We know that ancient marine environments didn’t have organophosphate pesticides, so we think the loss might instead be related to PON1’s role in responding to the extreme oxidative stress generated by long periods of diving and rapid resurfacing,” Meyer added.

For the study, appearing in the journal Science, the team analysed DNA sequences from five species of marine mammals and 53 species of terrestrial mammals and reacted their blood samples with an organophosphate by-product.

 Marine Mammals lost the ability that defends humans and other land-dwelling mammals from the neurotoxic effects of a popular human-made pesticide.
Marine Animals lost the ability that defends humans and other land-dwelling mammals from the neurotoxic effects of a popular human-made pesticide.

The blood did not break down the organophosphate by-product the way it did in land mammals, indicating that unless a different biological mechanism is protecting the marine mammals, they would be susceptible to organophosphate poisoning — a form of poisoning that results from the build-up of chemical signals in the body, especially the brain.

Also Read: European Countries Bans Bee-Killing Pesticides

The study calls for monitoring our waterways to learn more about the impact of pesticides and agricultural run-off on marine mammals.(IANS)

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WHO Aims to Make Breast Cancer Treatment Affordable

WHO Moves Step Closer to Cheaper Breast Cancer Treatment

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Breast Cancer
WHO tries to make breast cancer treatment affordable to women globally. Pixabay

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday that it had for the first time approved a “biosimilar” medicine — one derived from living sources rather than chemicals — to make breast cancer treatment affordable to women globally.

The trastuzumab drug has shown “high efficacy” in curing early-stage breast cancer and in some cases more advanced forms of the disease, WHO said in a statement.

But the annual cost of the original drug is an average of $20,000, “a price that puts it out of reach of many women and healthcare systems in most countries,” the statement added.

However, the biosimilar version of trastuzumab is generally 65 percent cheaper than the original.

“With this WHO listing, and more products expected in the prequalification pipeline, prices should decrease even further,” WHO said.

The cheaper but equally effective biotherapeutic medicines are produced from biological sources such as cells rather than synthesized chemicals.

They are usually manufactured by companies after the patent on the original product has expired.

“WHO prequalification of biosimilar trastuzumab is good news for women everywhere,” said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

A radiologist examines breast X-rays
A radiologist examines breast X-rays after a cancer prevention medical check-up at the Ambroise Pare hospital in Marseille, southern France. VOA

“Women in many cultures suffer from gender disparity when it comes to accessing health services. In poor countries, there is the added burden of a lack of access to treatment for many, and the high cost of medicines.

“Effective, affordable breast cancer treatment should be a right for all women, not the privilege of a few,” he added.

WHO prequalification 

A few biosimilars of trastuzumab have come on the market in recent years, but none had previously been prequalified by WHO.

WHO prequalification gives countries the assurance that they are purchasing “quality health products.”

Also Read- Tech Giants Amazon, Apple, Google Bat for Universal Smart Home Standard

“We need to act now and try to avoid more preventable deaths,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director general for Medicines and Health Products.

“The availability of biosimilars has decreased prices, making even innovative treatments more affordable and hopefully available to more people.” (VOA)