Finland—Glyphosate may affect human gut microbiota, according to a new study from the University of Turku in Finland.
Researchers at the university have developed a new bioinformatics tool to predict if a microbe, such as a human gut bacterium, is sensitive to glyphosate, according to a press release on the topic. Based on analyses using the new tool, 54% of the human core gut bacterial species are potentially sensitive to glyphosate.
“Glyphosate targets an enzyme called EPSPS in the shikimate pathway. This enzyme is crucial to synthesizing three essential amino acids. Based on the structure of the EPSPS enzyme, we are able to classify 80-90% of microbial species into sensitive or resistant to glyphosate,” says Docent Pere Puigbò, developer of the new bioinformatics tool, in the press release.
Glyphosate was thought to be safe because the shikimate pathway is found only in plants, fungi, and bacteria. However, if glyphosate affects the bacteria in the human gut, it may have a “strong effect” on human health, the press release says. It may also affect the microbial communities in soil, plant surfaces, and in animal guts.
“This groundbreaking study provides tools for further studies to determine the actual impact of glyphosate on human and animal gut microbiota and thus to their health,” explains Docent Marjo Helander in the press release. “In addition to bioinformatics, we need experimental research to study the effects of glyphosate on microbial communities in variable environments.”