Purpose of review: This review provides an update on the role of bacterial endotoxin in occupational airway disease, a problem of importance from diagnostic and preventive points of view.
Recent findings: Data from human inhalation studies have increased our understanding of the cell mechanisms underlying diseases related to endotoxin exposure. In addition, knowledge from molecular genetics may help us to identify individuals at risk. Several investigations have demonstrated that, apart from endotoxin, other microbial cell wall agents are also related to the risk for symptoms of occupational lung diseases, with pathogenic mechanisms different to those caused by endotoxin. Diagnostic methods have progressed from traditional lung function measurements to sampling of indicators of inflammation in the blood, nasal lavage and induced sputum. Investigations of a longitudinal design have provided important findings on the relationship between acute and chronic effects as well as exposures of risk and risk factors among individuals.
Summary: Endotoxin, as well as other agents derived from microbes, are important causative agents for occupational respiratory and other diseases, and exposure may occur in a large variety of occupational environments. Recent data from longitudinal studies provide important information on diagnostic and preventive measures.