Scientists Warn That The Allergy Impact Of This Invasive Weed Was Dramatically Underestimated

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The common ragweed, scientifically known as Ambrosia artemisiifolia, affects over thirteen million Europeans, a study says.

While the number alone is unsettling, it translates to a cost of €7.4bn worth of health costs yearly.

However, the study stated that the plant could be controlled by a beetle, which is unfortunately non-native to the old continent.

The Hero Beetle

The insect is known as the North American ragweed leaf beetle (Ophraella communa), which accidentally made its way in Europe seven years ago.

It is useful because it attacks ragweed foliage. Field research revealed that the leaf beetle is capable of reducing ragweed pollen by almost 85%.

The curious fact to the story is that the ragweed also originates from North America and can now be found in 30 countries across Europe, ranging from the Balkans and Iberia to the northern British Isles.

The pollen from the ragweed is so unwanted because it can produce various allergies that manifest in the form of sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and others.

The pollen is particularly dangerous to people who have asthma and eczema because it can aggravate the conditions, potentially provoking complications.

Optimism & Cautions

Urs Schaffner of the CABI in Delémont, Switzerland, and his collaborators determined the economic advantages of controlling the spread of ragweed with the humble leaf beetle.

“Our study provides evidence that the impacts of common ragweed on human health and the economy are so far highly underestimated, but that biological control by Ophraella communa might mitigate these impacts in parts of Europe,” Schaffner said.

However, he also spoke how careful analysis should be made to determine whether that solution is feasible or not:

“Any other country which wants to use O. communa for biological control of ragweed would need to go through a risk-benefit assessment and the national authorities must approve the use of this exotic insect for biological control in their country.”

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.