Occupational exposure to airborne microorganisms, endotoxins and β-glucans in poultry houses at different stages of the production cycle.
OBJECTIVES Previous studies have demonstrated that persons working with poultry have an increased incidence of chest symptoms and decreased lung function. A study was undertaken to evaluate the usefulness of airway responsiveness measurements to diagnose the presence of airways inflammation and relate this to the workplace exposure. METHODS The group studied comprised of 42 non-smoking poultry workers and 40 controls not exposed to organic dusts. The presence of symptoms was evaluated using a standardized questionnaire for organic dust exposures. Airway responsiveness was measured using the methacholine challenge test. The concentrations of airborne endotoxin and (1-->3)-beta-D-glucan were measured. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS Exposure levels were in excess of those expected to cause effects in the airways. There was significantly higher airway responsiveness among the workers compared to controls (decrease 9.5 SD 7.5 vs 3.4, SD 3.3). Poultry workers had a higher prevalence of toxic pneumonitis, airways inflammation and chronic bronchitis compared to controls. Endotoxin levels in the poultry buildings exceeded those earlier suggested as the threshold value for airways inflammation.