A weed killer commonly used by farmers in the UK and around the world may be associated with chronic inflammation of the gut, according to research.
Scientists in the US said they have found that propyzamide “may boost inflammation in the small and large intestine”.
The experts said their discovery, published in the journal Nature, could revolutionise the treatment of other autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.
Francisco Quintana, an investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Ann Romney Centre for Neurologic Diseases, said: “Our methodology allowed us to identify a chemical that disrupts one of the body’s natural ‘brakes’ on inflammation.
“This method can identify new chemical candidates for epidemiological studies, as well as novel mechanisms that regulate autoimmune responses.”
In the UK, propyzamide is used on a wide variety of crops, from winter oilseed rape to lettuce and even chicory.
The researchers performed lab studies on mice and zebrafish cells, where they found propyzamide interfered with the mechanisms associated with immune regulation, paying the way for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
According to the NHS, IBD is a term mainly used to describe two conditions: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are long-term conditions that involve inflammation of the gut.
The experts said they are working on engineering nanoparticles and probiotics that can target IBD.
Mr Quintana said: “As we learn more about the environmental factors that might contribute to disease, we can develop state and national-level strategies to limit exposures.
“Some chemicals don’t seem to be toxic when tested under basic conditions, but we do not yet know about the effect of chronic, low-level exposures over decades, or early on in development.”