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Trace Metals and Infectious Diseases$
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Jerome O. Nriagu and Eric P. Skaar

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262029193

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262029193.001.0001

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Metals in the Environment as Risk Factors for Infectious Diseases

Metals in the Environment as Risk Factors for Infectious Diseases

Gaps and Opportunities

(p.271) 17 Metals in the Environment as Risk Factors for Infectious Diseases
Trace Metals and Infectious Diseases

M. Leigh Ackland

Julia Bornhorst

George V. Dedoussis

Rodney R. Dietert

Jerome O. Nriagu

Jozef M. Pacyna

John M. Pettifor

The MIT Press

By reducing immune function, trace metal deficiencies may substantially contribute to the global burden of diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. Human activities may be contributing to trace metal deficiency in soils and plants by exacerbating the preponderance of cereals and cash crops that reduce food diversity and micronutrient intake. Adaptive strategies are needed to reverse these trends. Anthropogenic activities have led to increased toxic metal exposure, and effects on human hosts need clarification. Metal toxicities can also impair the immune system and hence increase the susceptibility to infectious pathogens. Climate change affects metal speciation and the build-up of trace elements in the human food chain, with as yet unknown outcomes on infectious disease. Food processing and the use of metallic nanomaterials can alter human exposure to metals in ways that can influence the host–pathogen competition for metals. The effects of metals on human health may also be mediated through modification of the epigenome, conferring drug resistance on pathogenic bacteria and enhancing/ reducing human tolerance to infectious parasites. The emerging metals cerium, gadolinium, lanthanum, and yttrium constitute another driver of change in metal exposure and may potentially modulate the immune system with unknown consequences for human health.

Keywords:   infectious disease, trace metal deficiency, metal toxicity, immune response to metals, human food chain, food processing, metallic nanomaterials, human health

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