Pesticides cause Canadian diplomats' health problems in Cuba in 2016: research

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JERUSALEM, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- A new interdisciplinary research shows that pesticides may cause the neurological symptoms among Canadian diplomats in Cuba's capital Havana in 2016, the Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in southern Israel reported Wednesday.

The study about the symptoms' outbreak, named the "Havana syndrome," was led by researchers at BGU and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. The findings refute the claim of a deliberate attack against the diplomats.

Beginning in August 2017, reports surfaced that U.S. and Canadian diplomatic personnel in Cuba had suffered a variety of health problems including headaches and loss of balance, as well as sleep, concentration and memory difficulties.

The Havana syndrome initially believed to be acoustic attacks on U.S. and Canadian embassy staff, first reported in Cuba.

The study, published in the health sciences website medRxiv, details the nature of the injuries, specifically the brain regions involved, including the blood-brain barrier and suggests a possible cause in the form of "cholinesterase inhibitors," with "organophosphorus insecticides, being a likely source."

Cholinesterase is one of the key enzymes required for the proper functioning of the nervous systems of humans, invertebrates and insects.

The researchers were able to test several of the diplomats and their family members before and after they returned from Cuba and saw changes in their brains that occurred during the time they were in Havana.

The researchers attribute the findings to multidisciplinary and quantitative research methods, in particular, their use of new brain imaging tools including advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques and magnetoencephalography (MEG) functional neuro imaging technique.

The researchers represented a wide range of disciplines, including neuroscience, neurology, psychiatry, audio-vestibular, ophthalmology, toxicology and even veterinary medicine.

"The study validates the need to continue learning more about pesticides and the impact that toxins have on our health," the researchers concluded. Enditem

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