Immune disorders induced by exposure to pyrethroid insecticides

Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2017 Jun 8;71(0):446-453. doi: 10.5604/01.3001.0010.3827.


Pyrethroids are biocides, which belong to the third generation of insecticides. They are used as biocides, insecticides and medicines. These agents react selectively, because they are less harmful to birds and mammals (due to poor intestinal absorption and rapid detoxification in the body of homeothermic organisms) and they are poisonous for fish and insects. The aim of the article is to present the current state of knowledge on the effects of pyrethroids on the immune system based on the latest scientific research. The mechanism of action of pyrethroids include the delaying closure of voltage- sensitive sodium and chloride channels (including GABA- dependent channels). These compounds are neurotoxic. Studies have shown that they cause numerous immune disorders contributing to lowering of immunity in humans and animals. Exposure to pyrethroids can cause inhibition of proliferation of peripheral blood leukocytes and reducing the concentration of IgG immunolgobulines. They also cause reduced macrophages and decrease in interleukin 2 (IL-2), interleukin 8 (IL-8), interleukin 12p70 (IL-12p70), and interferon γ (IFN-γ). Some of these compounds cause increase of liver weight and increase of bone marrow cellularity, and may induce apoptosis of the thymus. Pyrethroids can cause allergies and asthma. Their immunosuppressive effects can impair host resistance against infections. Exposure to these compounds can also contribute to induction of the cancer, especially in patients with impaired immune function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immune System Diseases / etiology*
  • Insecticides / adverse effects
  • Insecticides / pharmacology
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Pyrethrins / adverse effects
  • Pyrethrins / pharmacology
  • Pyrethrins / toxicity*


  • Insecticides
  • Pyrethrins