Pesticides and transgenerational inheritance of pathologies:Designing,analysing and reporting rodent studies

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Single-centre studies examining the transgenerational inheritance of pathologies in rodents exposed to pesticides have not always taken important design and analysis issues into account. This paper examines these methodological and statistical issues in detail. Its particular focus is on the estimation of ‘litter effects’: the tendency for rodents within a litter to be more alike than rodents in different litters. Appropriate statistical models were fitted to published
data from a series of widely reported studies carried out at Washington State University. These studies were amalgamated into a single dataset in order to estimate these litter effects and associated treatment effects. Litter effects varied by outcome and were often substantial. Consequently, the effective sample size was often substantially less than the number of observations with implications for the power of the studies. Moreover, the reported precision of the estimates of treatment effects was too low. These problems are exacerbated by unexplained missing data across generations. Researchers in the life sciences
could be more cognisant of the guidelines established in medicine for reporting randomised controlled trials, particularly cluster randomised trials. More attention should be paid to the design and analysis of multi-generational rodent studies; their imperfections have important implications for assessments of the evidence relating to the risks of pesticides for public health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0228762.
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalP L o S One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


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