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Exposure to cholinesterase inhibiting insecticides and blood glucose level in a population of Ugandan smallholder farmers

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  • Martin Rune Hassan Hansen
  • Erik Jørs
  • Annelli Sandbæk
  • Daniel Sekabojja
  • John C Ssempebwa
  • Ruth Mubeezi
  • Philipp Staudacher
  • Samuel Fuhrimann
  • Alex Burdorf
  • Bo Martin Bibby
  • Vivi Schlünssen
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OBJECTIVES: The risk of diabetes mellitus may be elevated among persons exposed to some pesticides, including cholinesterase-inhibiting insecticides (organophosphates and carbamates). The objective of this study was to investigate how acetylcholinesterase activity was associated with mean blood glucose levels among smallholder farmers in Uganda.

METHODS: We conducted a short-term follow-up study among 364 smallholder farmers in Uganda. Participants were examined three times from September 2018 to February 2019. At each visit, we measured glycosylated haemoglobin A (HbA1c) as a measure of long-term average blood glucose levels. Exposure to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides was quantified using erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase normalised by haemoglobin (AChE/Hb). For a subgroup of participants, fasting plasma glucose (FPG) was also available. We analysed HbA1c and FPG versus AChE/Hb in linear mixed and fixed effect models adjusting for age, sex, physical activity level, and consumption of fruits and vegetables, alcohol and tobacco.

RESULTS: Contrary to our hypothesis, our mixed effect models showed significant correlation between low AChE/Hb and low HbA1c. Adjusted mean HbA1c was 0.74 (95% CI 0.17 to 1.31) mmol/mol lower for subjects with AChE/Hb=24.3 U/g (35th percentile) compared with subjects with AChE/Hb=25.8 U/g (50th percentile). Similar results were demonstrated for FPG. Fixed effect models showed less clear correlations for between-phase changes in AChE/Hb and HbA1c.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results do not clearly support a causal link between exposure to cholinesterase-inhibiting insecticides and elevated blood glucose levels (expressed as HbA1c and FPG), but results should be interpreted with caution due to the risk of reverse causality.

TidsskriftOccupational and Environmental Medicine
Udgave nummer10
Sider (fra-til)713-720
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - okt. 2020

Bibliografisk note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

ID: 61380122