Results of a Canadian study suggest that for persons who work in a swine barn, both gender and genetics play a role in lung health response.

As a rule, men and women have different lung health responses to exposure to the dust in swine barns.

A genetic profile of men and women student volunteers was conducted using a previously identified gene called TLR4, which may regulate immune response to some ingredients in dust. About 5% of the students had a form of the TLR4 gene that is thought to produce lower sensitivity (rare form).

Both men and women without prior swine barn exposure, some with the common form of the gene and some with the rare form of the gene, were given a simulated day's work in a swine barn. There were four sets of groups: men with the common form of the gene, men with the rare form of the gene, women with the common form of the gene and women with the rare form of the gene.

At the end of the day, men with the common form of the gene and women with the rare form of the gene exhibited a significant increase in immune response to exposure to swine barn dust.

Researchers drew three conclusions from the study:

  • Men and women working in swine barns should wear masks to reduce dust exposure.

  • Genetic background has an impact on some people's response to swine barn dust exposure.

  • Sensitive individuals should be protected from lung disease by monitoring lung health.

Those low-cost health protection steps would be well compensated by improved productivity and reduced absenteeism, researchers explain.

Researchers: P. Willson, L. Chenard, S. Kirychuk, D. Rennie and J. Dosman, all of the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture, University of Saskatchewan; A. Senthilselvan, University of Alberta; B. Predicala, Prairie Swine Centre; D. Schwartz, National Jewish Medical and Research Center; and L. Burch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. For more information, contact Willson by phone (306) 883-2189, fax (306) 966-8799 or e-mail Philip.willson@usask.ca.

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