A cohort study of cucumber greenhouse workers' exposure to microorganisms as measured using NGS and MALDI-TOF MS and biomarkers of systemic inflammation

Tidsskriftartikel - 2020


Work in greenhouses entails exposure to airborne fungi and bacteria. The aims of this study are to obtain knowledge about whether exposure to fungal and bacterial genera and species during work in a cucumber greenhouse is affected by work tasks, and whether a cohort of greenhouse workers' serum levels of serum amyloid A (SAA) and C-reactive protein (CRP), biomarkers of systemic inflammation, are associated with this. Data on personal exposure to airborne fungal and bacterial species measured over four years as well as serum levels of SAA and CRP sampled over two years were analyzed. For data analysis, the main work tasks were grouped into three different groups, called 'grouped work task'. Microorganisms were identified using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF MS) and next-generation sequencing (NGS). The 'daily exposure' of greenhouse workers' were as follows: 4.8 × 104 CFU bacteria/m3, 1.4 × 106 CFU fungi/m3, and 392 EU/m3 of endotoxin. Workers were exposed to many different microbial species including several species within the genera Acinetobacter, Bacillus, Microbacterium, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, and Streptomyces. The genera Ralstonia and Cladosporium were found in most samples. The exposure levels as well as the microbial composition were associated significantly with grouped work task and season with high exposures during tasks in close contact with mature and old plants and in the autumn. CRP and SAA levels were also associated with exposure level and grouped work tasks. The Shannon-Wiener indices were not different in the 3 'grouped work tasks'. Several specific species including e.g. Halomonas elongata, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, Podosphaera fusca, and Wallemia spp. were found frequently or in high concentrations in the exposures associated with the highest levels of CRP and SAA. The microorganisms S. maltophilia, P. fusca, and Wallemia spp. were also found on the cucumber plant leaves. In conclusion, both exposure level and the species composition seem to have an effect on the serum levels of CRP and SAA of exposed workers. The greenhouse workers were exposed to only a few species characterized as human pathogens.


Madsen AM, White JK, Markouch A, Kadhim S, de Jonge N, Thilsing T, Hansen VM, Bælum J, Nielsen JL, Vogel U, Tendal K. A cohort study of cucumber greenhouse workers' exposure to microorganisms as measured using NGS and MALDI-TOF MS and biomarkers of systemic inflammation. Environmental Research 2020;192:110325.
doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.110325

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