Pesticide Application and Khat Chewing as Predictors of the Neurological Health Outcomes among Pesticide Applicators in a Vector Control Unit, Saudi Arabia

Ahmed A Ismail, Mohammed Almalki, Ahmed Agag, Yahya M Solan, Ibrahim A Bani


Background: Pesticide applicators are at risk of developing neurological symptoms and neurobehavioral deficits. This risk may increase if the applicator chews stimulant plants like khat.

Objective: To examine the sociodemographic and exposure determinants of neurological symptoms presentation, neurobehavioral performance, and cholinesterase activity among pesticide applicators in a vector control unit, Saudi Arabia.

Methods: In a cross-sectional study, 30 pesticide applicators and 32 non-applicators from a vector control unit in Jazan region, Saudi Arabia, were studied. The study participants completed an exposure and medical questionnaire, and a neurobehavioral test battery. Their blood samples were also tested for the measurement of butyryl cholinesterase (BChE).

Results: The mean blood BChE level was no significantly different between the applicators and non-applicators. Working in pesticide application and chewing khat were significant predictors of the neurological symptoms presentation and neurobehavioral deficits among the study participants. Each factor was associated with about 40% of the symptoms included in the questionnaire. Exposure to pyrethroids was significantly associated with a decrement in symbol digit test latency, tapping (TAP) non-preferred hand, and TAP alternating hands measures, representing the executive and motor speed/coordination functions. Khat chewing was associated with TAP preferred and non-preferred hands and serial digit learning measures, representing the memory and motor speed/coordination functions.

Conclusions: It seems that being exposed to pyrethroids and chewing khat are associated with neurological and neurobehavioral drawbacks among pesticide applicators.


Neurological manifestations; Catha; Pyrethrins; Insect Vectors; Saudi Arabia

doi: 10.15171/ijoem.2018.1160

 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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