Non-malignant disease mortality in meat workers: a model for studying the role of zoonotic transmissible agents in non-malignant chronic diseases in humans.

, , , , Department of Epidemiology, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX, USA.
Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.23). 06/2007; 64(12):849-55. DOI: 10.1136/oem.2006.030825
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Current research efforts have mainly concentrated on evaluating the role of substances present in animal food in the aetiology of chronic diseases in humans, with relatively little attention given to evaluating the role of transmissible agents that are also present. Meat workers are exposed to a variety of transmissible agents present in food animals and their products. This study investigates mortality from non-malignant diseases in workers with these exposures.
A cohort mortality study was conducted between 1949 and 1989, of 8520 meat workers in a union in Baltimore, Maryland, who worked in manufacturing plants where animals were killed or processed, and who had high exposures to transmissible agents. Mortality in meat workers was compared with that in a control group of 6081 workers in the same union, and also with the US general population. Risk was estimated by proportional mortality and standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) and relative SMR.
A clear excess of mortality from septicaemia, subarachnoid haemorrhage, chronic nephritis, acute and subacute endocarditis, functional diseases of the heart, and decreased risk of mortality from pre-cerebral, cerebral artery stenosis were observed in meat workers when compared to the control group or to the US general population.
The authors hypothesise that zoonotic transmissible agents present in food animals and their products may be responsible for the occurrence of some cases of circulatory, neurological and other diseases in meat workers, and possibly in the general population exposed to these agents.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Laboratory and in vivo studies in primates, and serological evidence in humans, indicate that food animal oncogenic viruses show potential for causing cancer in humans. However, until fairly recently, supporting analytic epidemiologic studies have been lacking and have concentrated on lung cancer. We conducted an extensive Medline search and reviewed 60 studies investigating lung cancer risk in highly exposed workers in the meat and poultry industries. The overwhelming majority of studies of different designs (including all the cohort mortality and cancer incidence studies) indicate at least a 30% excess risk of lung cancer in meat and poultry plant workers, even after controlling for smoking. Evidence points to food animal oncogenic microorganisms as one of the main causes. This has important public health implications because the general population is also widely exposed. Studies carried out thus far have not had sufficient statistical power to investigate other potentially carcinogenic exposures within the industries. Thus, large studies that can adequately control for occupational and non-occupational confounding factors are needed, so that the possible role of food animal oncogenic viruses in the occurrence of human lung cancer can be clearly defined.
    Zoonoses and Public Health 02/2012; 59(5):303-13. DOI:10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01459.x · 2.09 Impact Factor
  • Source
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The role of the biological environment in the occurrence of many chronic human diseases has been little studied. Humans are commonly exposed to transmissible agents that infect and cause a wide variety of subacute and chronic diseases in chickens and turkeys. The objective of this study is to investigate whether these agents cause similar diseases in humans, by studying workers in poultry slaughtering and processing plants who have one of the highest human exposures to these agents. Mortality in poultry workers was compared with that in the United States general population through the estimation of standardized mortality ratios. Excess mortality from infectious and parasitic diseases was observed in the poultry workers. In addition, excess occurrences of deaths involving several sites of the cardiovascular, neurological, endocrine, gastrointestinal and reproductive systems, were observed, although the numbers involved were few in some instances. The results indicate that poultry workers are at increased risk of dying from certain causes of death, including infections. This is consistent with other reports. Although it is possible that occupational exposure to transmissible agents present in poultry may be one of the causes of the excess occurrence of some of these diseases, other factors that were not considered because of the nature of the study design, could be equally important. Also, the small number of deaths involved in some instances calls for caution in interpreting the results. However, the study is important, as it has succeeded in newly identified areas that need further research, and which may have implications not only for workers, but also for the general population.
    Environment international 11/2010; 37(2):322-7. DOI:10.1016/j.envint.2010.09.007 · 6.25 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
Mar 6, 2015