RATIONALE: A low prevalence of asthma and atopy has been shown in farmers and agricultural workers. However, in these workers, a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms has been reported, in which T helper 1 (Th1) and/or Th17 responses may play a role.
AIM: We investigated the effect of exposure to dust extracts (DEs) from different farms on airway inflammation and T-cell polarisation in a mouse model and assessed T-cell polarisation in agricultural workers from the same farms.
METHODS: DEs were prepared from settled dust collected at cattle and pig farms and bulb and onion industries. Mice were exposed to phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), DEs, house dust mite (HDM) or HDM+DE via nasal instillation, four times per week during 5 weeks. Hyperresponsiveness, airway inflammation, IgE levels and T-cell polarisation were assessed. Th-cell and T cytotoxic (Tc)-cell subsets were investigated in peripheral blood samples from 33 agricultural workers and 9 non-exposed controls.
RESULTS: DEs induced interleukin(IL)-17, IL-1β and IL-6 in mouse lung homogenates. DE-exposed mice had more mixed inflammatory infiltrates in the lungs, and more neutrophils compared with PBS-exposed mice. DEs protected against the HDM-induced Th2 response and methacholine hyperresponsiveness. Interestingly, occupationally exposed humans had higher frequencies of Th cells spontaneously expressing IL-17 and interferon γ compared with controls.
CONCLUSION: Chronic exposure to different types of farm dust induces a Th/Tc-17 inflammatory response in mice and agricultural workers. This may contribute to the low prevalence of Th2-related diseases but may constitute a risk for other chronic respiratory diseases.