Research Article: The nasal and oropharyngeal microbiomes of healthy livestock workers

Date Published: March 12, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Ashley E. Kates, Mark Dalman, James C. Torner, Tara C. Smith, Karsten Becker.


Little information exists on the microbiomes of livestock workers. A cross-sectional, epidemiological study was conducted enrolling 59 participants (26 of which had livestock contact) in Iowa. Participants were enrolled in one of four ways: from an existing prospective cohort study (n = 38), from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Animal Feeding Operations database (n = 17), through Iowa county fairs (n = 3), and through snowball sampling (n = 1). We collected swabs from the nares and oropharynx of each participant to assess the microbiome via 16s rRNA sequencing. We observed livestock workers to have greater diversity in their microbiomes compared to those with no livestock contact. In the nares, there were 27 operational taxonomic units found to be different between livestock workers and non-livestock workers with the greatest difference seen with Streptococcus and Proteobacteria. In the oropharynx, livestock workers with swine exposure were more likely to carry several pathogenic organisms. The results of this study are the first to characterize the livestock worker nasal and oropharyngeal microbiomes.

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The importance of microorganisms in maintaining human health has been recognized for many years. The composition of the microbiome is greatly influenced by one’s environment [1]. It has been hypothesized the composition of the microbiome may protect those raised on farms from developing diseases such as asthma and atopy through animal-associated microbes and plant materials that stimulate the immune system (the farm effect) [2].

Very little is known about the healthy livestock worker nasal and oropharyngeal microbiomes. The majority of studies assessing the microbial communities related to livestock work have either been done in animals [23, 24] or have studied the aerosolization of microorganisms in and around livestock facilities [5, 6, 25]. We are only aware of two studies to date considering the nasal and oral microbiomes of agriculture workers [7, 8]. Here we have described the nasal and oropharyngeal microbiomes of 26 livestock workers and 33 non-livestock workers in Iowa.




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