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Environmental changes : what impact on our health ?

Human, vegetal and animal health, are strongly impacted by environmental changes. How and what are the possible adjustments? These are the questions that the scientists of Université Paris-Saclay are examining.

The world is changing. It is a banality, yet also a research subject. This is because climate changes, loss of biodiversity and also pollution have impacted human, vegetal and animal health. The researchers of Université Paris-Saclay are focusing on interdisciplinarity, to study these phenomena, as in the ACE-ICSEN project.

Captors and health hazards

The ACE-ICSEN has joined the Polluscope, the National Research Agency, project on environmental health issues, and also the Previpol project. They respectively focus on the use of captors to measure the pollution in the air in volunteers and the measurements of pollens in the air. The Institute has added a humanities dimension to the study by taking an interest, in the first project, in the acceptability of the captors, and in the second, in the change in behaviour due to risks of allergy. “We aim to improve the epidemiological models in order to provide better tools for larger scale studies”. Explains the coordinator. Two ACE-ICSEN teams are also working on the measurement and analysis of contaminants in the rivers and will map the population affected by this pollution, in 2019. This first stage is essential to identify the risks of pollution and its impact on human health.

Wheat and climate changes

In terms of vegetal health, many researchers are focusing on climate change. Amongst them is a team, grouping scientists of Inra, Agro- ParisTech, the CEA and the CNRS, that has just published a study on the impact of extreme climate events on wheat yield. The 2016 observation showed that wheat yield in the main French area had decreased by 20 to 50% in relation to yields observed over the last sixty years. Scientists therefore researched co-occurrences between abnormal climatic events and severe loss in yield. They discovered that the probability of enduring the former increases following an excess of rain, in the spring, and further increases if this excess is combined with a particularly warm end of autumn, as in 2015.

The researchers however believe that uncertainties on future climate are too important to calculate a pertinent probable future yield loss. “However, we can say that these two variables – temperatures at the end of autumn and rainfall in the spring- were exceptional in 2015-2016, although the first will tend to be more frequent”, summarizes Tamara Ben-Ari, of the Agronomy Laboratory (AgroParisTech/ Inra). “We can therefore believe that loss of yield will also become more frequent. In the future, agricultural systems will have to be resilient to the diverse shocks, from drought to excess rain, that will put them in difficulty”.

Pigs and antibiotics

Resilience, resistance… These are the keys to climate change. The stakes are as high in livestock, where agro-ecological transition and reducing the use of antibiotics is where the ambition lies. Claire Rogel-Gaillard, of the Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology Laboratory (AgroParisTech/Inra), is working on this subject: She is studying cohorts of pigs to identify the links between immunity competence and individual variability to resistance to pathogens and answers to vaccination. “We have established that there is a genetic control of immunity parameters, and that it is possible to select animals according to this criteria”, explains the scientist. “We are also studying the variables of intestinal microbiote and its interactions with the immunity response. We are also trying to link these individual variables to the variables with the pathogen responses, or to vaccination in livestock, in real conditions.

Claire Rogel-Gaillard has shared her work with the colleagues within the Predict project, and this led to a conference, “Health and Predictive Biology”, in May 2017, in collaboration with the ‘Maison des sciences de l’Homme’, Paris-Saclay. The conference proceedings are available, free of charge, and might encourage new interdisciplinary collaborations, essential to work on adapting to climate changes.


The original version of this article was published in L'Edition #9.