Pneumoproteins in sewage workers exposed to sewage dust
Purpose The association between exposure to bacteria and endotoxins in sewage dust and the serum concentrations of pneumoproteins in sewage treatment plant workers were studied.
Methods Forty-four workers from eight sewage treatment plants and 38 reference workers participated in the study. Microbial aerosol was collected by personal inhalable samplers. The concentrations of bacteria and endotoxins were determined by fluorescence microscopy and the Limulus assay, respectively. Pneumoproteins (Clara cell protein: CC16, and Surfactant proteins A and D: SP-A, SP-D) were determined by ELISA in blood samples collected post-shift.
Results The exposure to dust ranged from 0.02 to 9.3 (geometric mean (GM) 0.3 mg/m3, of bacteria from 0.3 to 4,900 × 103 (GM 27 × 103) cells/m3 and endotoxins from 1 to 3,160 (GM 28) EU/m3. The exposed workers had lower CC16 [arithmetic mean (AM) 4.9 ng/ml] compared to the referents (AM 6.4 ng/ml,p < 0.01). No significant difference was observed for SP-D and SP-A. Exposure to bacteria was positively associated with CC16 (p < 0.05) and SP-D (p < 0.05), adjusting for possible confounders.
Conclusions This study showed that exposed workers had lower serum concentration of CC16 as compared to the referents, which may reflect a long-term effect on secretion of these pneumoproteins. The positive association between exposure to bacteria and the serum concentrations of CC16 and SP-D may be explained by a transient increased permeability of the lung–blood barrier.