Exposure to bacteria in swine-house dust and acute inflammatory reactions in humans

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1996 Nov;154(5):1261-6. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.154.5.8912733.


Inhalation of swine-house dust may cause an acute airway inflammatory condition (organic dust toxic syndrome). Thirty-eight healthy subjects were exposed to swine dust while weighing swine for 3 h. We studied the correlation between acute health effects and the inhaled bacterial exposure markers peptidoglycan (the main constituent of the cell walls of gram-positive bacteria, but also present in lesser amounts in gram-negative bacteria) and lipopolysaccharides (LPS; present only in gram-negative bacteria). LPS activity in airborne dust was measured with the Limulus amebocyte lysate assay (LPS(LAL)), and the total LPS was estimated from 3-hydroxy fatty acids, which were measured with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) (LPS(GC-MS)). Peptidoglycan was estimated from muramic acid measured with GC-MS. The median (25th to 75th percentile) concentration of inhalable dust was 21 (16 to 25) mg/m3. LPS(LAL) was 1.2 (0.9 to 1.4) microg/m3; LPS(GC-MS) was 3.9 (2.5 to 4.9) microg/m3; and the peptidoglycan concentration in airborne dust was 6.5 (2.7 to 13) microg/m3. All exposure markers correlated significantly with an increase in serum interleukin-6. LPS(LAL) showed the highest correlation (r2 = 0.29) and total inhaled dust the lowest (r2 = 0.09). LPS(LAL) also correlated with symptoms and with an increase in bronchial responsiveness and decrease in vital capacity (VC). Peptidoglycan, but not LPS(LAL), correlated with an increase in the blood granulocyte concentration and in body temperature. The results suggest that several microbial agents in inhaled swine-house dust may contribute to acute systemic health effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Dust / analysis
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Lipopolysaccharides / adverse effects*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / analysis
  • Lung Diseases / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peptidoglycan / adverse effects*
  • Peptidoglycan / analysis
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Swine


  • Dust
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Peptidoglycan