Allergies caused by common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) affect around 13.5 million people in Europe, which results in 7.4 billion Euros worth of health costs per year, according to research published in Nature Communications. The study also suggests that the biological control of ragweed using the leaf beetle Ophraella communa could reduce the number of people affected by the pollen and the associated economic costs.
Invasive plant species (such as common ragweed) have a significant effect on ecosystems and can lead to substantial economic costs, but their impact on human well-being is not fully understood.
Using data from the European pollen monitoring programme, Urs Schaffner and colleagues mapped seasonal total ragweed pollen in Europe from 2004–2012. From this they determined ragweed sensitization rates in the European population. They estimate that 13.5 million people were affected by seasonal ragweed pollen allergies, with economic costs of approximately 7.4 billion Euros per year, prior to the unintendend arrival of O. communa in Europe in 2013. By modelling the number of generations of O. communa across its suitable habitat range in Europe, the authors project that biological control of common ragweed could reduce the number of people with an allergy to the ragweed to approximately 11.2 million and the health costs to 6.4 billion Euros per year.
The authors note that their estimated public health costs are higher than previously reported and suggest that the actual cost of invasive alien species and the benefits from their management are underestimated.
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