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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31646. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031646. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Daily exposure to dust alters innate immunity.

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  • 1Lung and Allergy Research, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Pig farmers are exposed to organic material in pig barns on a daily basis and have signs of an ongoing chronic airway inflammation and increased prevalence of chronic inflammatory airway diseases, predominantly chronic bronchitis. Interestingly, the inflammatory response to acute exposure to organic dust is attenuated in farmers. The aim of the study was to closer characterize innate immunity features in blood and airways in farmers and in naïve, non-exposed, controls. The expression of pattern recognition receptors (TLR2, TLR4 and CD14) whose ligands are abundant in pig barn dust and adhesion proteins (CD11b, CD62L and CD162L) on blood and sputum neutrophils in pig farmers and soluble TLR2 and CD14 (sTLR2 and sCD14) in blood and sputum were assessed in pig farmers and previously unexposed controls. The release of pro-inflammatory cytokines from blood cells stimulated with LPS ex vivo was measured in the absence and presence of anti-ST2. We also examined, in a separate study population, serum levels of soluble ST2 (sST2), before and after exposure in a pig barn and a bronchial LPS challenge. Farmers had signs of ongoing chronic inflammation with increased number of blood monocytes, and decreased expression of CD62L and CD162 on blood neutrophils. Farmers also had lower levels of sTLR2 and sCD14 in sputum and reduced expression of CD14 on sputum neutrophils than controls. Exposure to organic dust and LPS induced increase of serum sST2 in controls but not in farmers. In conclusion, farmers have signs of local and systemic inflammation associated with altered innate immunity characteristics.

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