Fungi, β-glucan, and bacteria in nasal lavage of greenhouse workers and their relation to occupational exposure

A. M. Madsen, K. Tendal, T. Thilsing, M. W. Frederiksen, J. Baelum, J. V. Hansen

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The nose and mouth are the first regions of the respiratory tract in contact with airborne microorganisms. Occupational exposures to airborne microorganisms are associated with inflammation and different symptoms of the airways. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relation between occupational exposure to fungi, β-glucan, and bacteria and contents of fungi, β-glucan, and bacteria in nasal lavage (NAL) of greenhouse workers. We also studied whether contents of microorganisms in NAL were related to gender, time of the work week, and runny nose. NAL samples (n = 135) were taken Monday morning and Thursday at noon and personal exposure to inhalable bioaerosols was measured during a working day. The content of fungi and β-glucan in NAL of men was affected by their exposure to fungi and β-glucan. The content of fungi, β-glucan, and bacteria in NAL was higher Thursday at noon than Monday morning. The ratios of fungi in NAL between Thursday at noon and Monday morning were 14 (median value) for men and 3.5 for women. Gender had no effect on the exposure level but had a significant effect on the content of fungi, β-glucan, and bacteria in NAL, with the highest contents in NAL of men. On Thursdays, the median content of fungi in NAL samples of men without runny noses was 9408 cfu per NAL sample, whereas the same content for women was 595 cfu per NAL sample. Workers with runny noses had fewer fungi in NAL than workers without runny noses. A higher content of β-glucan per fungal spore was found in NAL than in the air. This indicates that mainly the larger fungal spores or pollen grains deposit in the nose. The difference between genders and the fact that the content of fungi in NAL was significantly affected by the exposure indicate that the two genders are affected by the same exposure level differently.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of Occupational Hygiene
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1030-1040
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases/epidemiology
  • Agriculture
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Air Pollution, Indoor/analysis
  • Bacteria/isolation & purification
  • Female
  • Fungi
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure/analysis
  • Male
  • Nasal Lavage
  • Occupational Exposure/analysis
  • Respiration Disorders/epidemiology
  • Spores, Fungal/isolation & purification
  • beta-Glucans/analysis


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