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.
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.
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.
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.
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.