New research suggests pesticides may have triggered Havana Syndrome

Since reports surfaced surrounding health complications in Cuba among American and Canadian diplomatic staff, researchers have explored theories as to the cause of their symptoms brought forth by Havana syndrome in mid-2017.

A most recent theory, originating from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva, Israel and Dalhousie University Brain Repair Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, have focused on pesticides as a potential trigger for the health problems reported by diplomatic personnel.

According to the findings, a likely source of the health complaints, which includes loss of balance, concentration, headaches, memory difficulties, and sleep problems, may involve organophosphorus insecticides.

The findings were determined based on the examination of 26 Canadian diplomats and relatives. The Canadian personnel, the report shows, experienced similar symptoms as American diplomats during their stay in Cuba’s capital.

During the examination, researchers assessed cognitive health, blood tests, self-reported symptom questionnaires, and brain imaging results. Among individuals with signs of brain injury, they were instructed to undergo neurological, visual, and audio-vestibular assessments.

As attributed in the report, Alon Friedman, the study’s lead author, points to multiple functional and structural impairments, indicating brain injury as a result of possible overexposure to cholinesterase inhibitors associated with organophosphorus insecticides.

Friedman writes: “Our assessment documents multiple functional and structural impairments, including significant spatial memory impairment, abnormal brain-stem evoked potentials, degradation of fibre tracts in the fornix and posterior corpus callosum, blood-brain barrier injury to the right basal forebrain and anterior insula, and abnormal paroxysmal slowing events of cortical activity.”

“Subsequent mass-spectrometry and blood analyses documented reduced serum cholinesterase activity and the presence of organophosphates (Temephos) and pyrethroid metabolites (3-phenoxybenzoic acid or 3-BPA).”

“Our findings confirm brain injury, specify the regions involved, and raise the hypothesis of overexposure to cholinesterase inhibitors as a plausible etiology.”

Prior to the findings, researchers have proclaimed other plausible explanations for the symptoms, including exposure to the species Anurogryllus celerinictus and, most prevalently, mass psychogenic illness.