Alterations in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid but not in lung function and bronchial responsiveness in swine confinement workers

Chest. 1992 Mar;101(3):767-74. doi: 10.1378/chest.101.3.767.


Testing of lung function and bronchial reactivity, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), and a skin prick test with a standard panel and six "swine" extracts obtained from swine and swine environment were performed in 20 randomly selected nonsmoking swine confinement workers. In addition, blood samples for detection of antibodies by the diffusion in gel-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (DIG-ELISA) technique and precipitating antibodies were drawn. Air samples for measurement of dust and endotoxin levels were collected. All the farmers regarded themselves as healthy. The results were compared with reference groups consisting of urban nonsmoking subjects who had not been exposed to pig farming environment. The pig farmers had normal lung function and the bronchial reactivity was not different from the reference group. In the BAL fluid of the farmers, the concentration of total cells and granulocytes was increased while the concentrations of lymphocytes and macrophages were normal. The BAL fluid concentrations of albumin, fibronectin, and hyaluronan were elevated in the farmers. Skin prick tests with swine extracts were negative in all farmers. Antibodies (assessed by DIG-ELISA) against swine dander, swine dust, and pig feed were increased and precipitating antibodies against swine dander were found in 14, against pig food in five, and against swine confinement dust in three of the 20 pig farmers. The concentration of airborne total dust was 7.4 mg/cu mm and the endotoxin concentration was 37 (22 to 60) ng/cu mm during tending the pigs and increased, during feeding, to 13.8 mg/cu mm and 315 (194 to 716) ng/cu mm, respectively. There was no correlation between exposure and lung function or lavage findings. In conclusion, randomly selected pig farmers had signs of airway inflammatory reaction and activation of the immune system without alteration in lung function and bronchial reactivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / immunology
  • Animal Husbandry*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies / analysis
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / diagnosis
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / etiology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid* / chemistry
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid* / cytology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiratory Mechanics*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / immunology
  • Skin Tests
  • Swine* / immunology


  • Antibodies