Occupational Exposure to Aspergillus by Swine and Poultry Farm Workers in Portugal

a Nacional Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge , URSZ, Infectious Diseases Department , Lisbon , Portugal.
Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part A (Impact Factor: 2.35). 10/2012; 75(22-23):1381-91. DOI: 10.1080/15287394.2012.721170
Source: PubMed


Aspergillus is among a growing list of allergens that aggravate asthmatic responses. Significant pulmonary pathology is associated with Aspergillus-induced allergic and asthmatic lung disease. Environments with high levels of exposure to fungi are found in animal production facilities such as for swine and poultry, and farmers working with these are at increased risk for occupational respiratory diseases. Seven Portuguese poultry and seven swine farms were analyzed in order to estimate the prevalence, amount, and distribution of Aspergillus species, as well as to determine the presence of clinical symptoms associated with asthma and other allergy diseases in these highly contaminated settings. From the collected fungal isolates (699), an average incidence of 22% Aspergillus was detected in poultry farms, while the prevalence at swine farms was 14%. The most frequently isolated Aspergillus species were A. versicolor, A. flavus, and A. fumigatus. In poultry farms, A. flavus presented the highest level of airborne spores (>2000 CFU/m(3)), whereas in swine farms the highest was A. versicolor, with an incidence fourfold greater higher than the other mentioned species. Eighty workers in these settings were analyzed, ranging in age from 17 to 93 yr. The potentially hazardous exposure of poultry workers to mold allergens using sensitization markers was evaluated. Although no significant positive association was found between fungal contamination and sensitization to fungal antigens, a high incidence of respiratory symptoms in professionals without asthma was observed, namely, wheezing associated with dyspnea (23.8%) and dyspnea after strenuous activities (12.3%), suggesting underdiagnosed respiratory disturbances. Further, 32.5% of all exposed workers noted an improvement of respiratory ability during resting and holidays. From all the analyzed workers, seven were previously diagnosed with asthma and four reported the first attack after the age of 40 yr, which may be associated with their occupational exposure. Some of the fungi, namely, the Aspergillus species detected in this study, are known to induce hypersensitivity reactions in humans. This study confirmed the presence and distribution of Aspergillus in Portuguese poultry and swine farms, suggesting a possible occupational health problem and raising the need for preventive and protective measures to apply to avoid exposure in both occupational settings.

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    • "Several studies focused on the topic of environmental contamination by bacteria, fungi, and their metabolites, trying to establish a link between occupational exposure and occurrence of specific symptoms among employees , attributed to their exposure to such elements (Sabino et al., 2012; May et al., 2012; Thomas, 2013; Dutkiewicz, 1997). Currently, there is clear evidence correlating work activities involved in the collection, transport, treatment , recovery, and disposal of waste and the appearance of specific symptoms among workers. "
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    ABSTRACT: In recent years, efforts have been undertaken to reduce the volume of residual waste through sorting and recycling. The waste management and recycling sector is thriving and the number of workers there is increasing. In this context, prior knowledge of the risks to which workers may be exposed is of crucial importance, and preventive measures need to be put in place to accurately identify and quantify those risks. This study aimed to assess occupational risk of exposure to biological agents (viable bacteria and fungi) in a Portuguese waste packaging glass sorting plant. Air samples were collected from selected locations in waste sorting cabins (critical area, CA), administrative services (noncritical area, NCA) and outdoors (control point, CP). Duplicate air samples were collected through an impaction method. The investigation was carried out over an 8-mo period with two collection periods, autumn/winter (AW) and spring/summer (SS), in order to access the influence of any seasonal variation. In the 36 air samples collected, 319 bacterial and 196 mold identifications were performed. Air samples revealed existence of high environmental contamination by bacteria (1.6 × 10(4) colony forming units [cfu]/m(3)) and fungi (1.5 × 10(4) cfu/m(3)). The predominant bacterial genus was Staphylococcus (coagulase negative) with values ranging from 29.6 to 60% of the total count of bacteria. Genera Bacillus, Micrococcus, and Staphylococcus (coagulase negative) were also present at all sampling sites, regardless of the season. However, the counts of these genera, in the CA, were higher in warmer seasons. The genus Penicillium was the most frequent genus present with an approximate value of 95% of total fungal count in the CA. Seasonal variation was a significant factor for total bacteria and fungi, except for NCA versus CP. Overall, the highest levels of bacterial and fungal species (10(4) cfu/m(3)) were found in the waste sorting cabin (CA). These results highlight the importance of proper design and risk evaluation when planning a new waste facility, such that working conditions minimize proliferation of biological agents in the workplace.
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    • "It is noteworthy that only one sample from each plant was taken, and variations in fungal contamination are expected (Jantunen et al., 1997). Nevertheless, the prevalent genera found are common in several other settings such as poultry farms (Kotimaa et al., 1991; Sabino et al., 2012), swine operations (Sabino et al., 2012), and agriculture (Tsapko et al., 2011). In occupational environments where waste, biowaste, or compost is handled, spore counts of Penicillium and Aspergillus genus are two to four orders of magnitude higher than in domestic environments (Fischer and Dott, 2003), corroborating the findings of high fungal load in the studied plants. "
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    ABSTRACT: Organic waste is a rich substrate for microbial growth, and because of that, workers from waste industry are at higher risk of exposure to bioaerosols. This study aimed to assess fungal contamination in two plants handling solid waste management. Air samples from the two plants were collected through an impaction method. Surface samples were also collected by swabbing surfaces of the same indoor sites. All collected samples were incubated at 27°C for 5 to 7 d. After lab processing and incubation of collected samples, quantitative and qualitative results were obtained with identification of the isolated fungal species. Air samples were also subjected to molecular methods by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) using an impinger method to measure DNA of Aspergillus flavus complex and Stachybotrys chartarum. Assessment of particulate matter (PM) was also conducted with portable direct-reading equipment. Particles concentration measurement was performed at five different sizes (PM0.5; PM1; PM2.5; PM5; PM10). With respect to the waste sorting plant, three species more frequently isolated in air and surfaces were A. niger (73.9%; 66.1%), A. fumigatus (16%; 13.8%), and A. flavus (8.7%; 14.2%). In the incineration plant, the most prevalent species detected in air samples were Penicillium sp. (62.9%), A. fumigatus (18%), and A. flavus (6%), while the most frequently isolated in surface samples were Penicillium sp. (57.5%), A. fumigatus (22.3%) and A. niger (12.8%). Stachybotrys chartarum and other toxinogenic strains from A. flavus complex were not detected. The most common PM sizes obtained were the PM10 and PM5 (inhalable fraction). Since waste is the main internal fungal source in the analyzed settings, preventive and protective measures need to be maintained to avoid worker exposure to fungi and their metabolites.
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    • "From the 59 collection points where the Aspergillus isolates were obtained, 10 different species were identified . Aspergillus flavus was the second (23.7 %) and Aspergillus fumigatus the third most frequent (15.3 %) (Sabino et al. 2012). "
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