Impact of occupational pesticide exposure on the human gut microbiome

Milla F. Brandao Gois, Asier Fernández-Pato, Anke Huss, Ranko Gacesa, Cisca Wijmenga, Rinse K. Weersma, Jingyuan Fu, Roel C.H. Vermeulen, Alexandra Zhernakova, Virissa C. Lenters, Alexander Kurilshikov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The rising use of pesticides in modern agriculture has led to a shift in disease burden in which exposure to these chemicals plays an increasingly important role. The human gut microbiome, which is partially responsible for the biotransformation of xenobiotics, is also known to promote biotransformation of environmental pollutants. Understanding the effects of occupational pesticide exposure on the gut microbiome can thus provide valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying the impact of pesticide exposure on health. Here we investigate the impact of occupational pesticide exposure on human gut microbiome composition in 7198 participants from the Dutch Microbiome Project of the Lifelines Study. We used job-exposure matrices in combination with occupational codes to retrieve categorical and cumulative estimates of occupational exposures to general pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. Approximately 4% of our cohort was occupationally exposed to at least one class of pesticides, with predominant exposure to multiple pesticide classes. Most participants reported long-term employment, suggesting a cumulative profile of exposure. We demonstrate that contact with insecticides, fungicides and a general “all pesticides” class was consistently associated with changes in the gut microbiome, showing significant associations with decreased alpha diversity and a differing beta diversity. We also report changes in the abundance of 39 different bacterial taxa upon exposure to the different pesticide classes included in this study. Together, the extent of statistically relevant associations between gut microbial changes and pesticide exposure in our findings highlights the impact of these compounds on the human gut microbiome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1223120
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 10-Aug-2023


  • exposome
  • gut microbiome
  • microbiome
  • occupational exposure
  • pesticide exposure

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