Biological agents as occupational hazards – selected issues
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Unit of Zoonoses, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Department of Parasitology, National Veterinary Research Institute, Puławy, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med. 2011;18(2):286–293
There are two main groups of biological agents regarded as occupational hazards: allergenic and/or toxic agents forming bioaerosols, and agents causing zoonoses and other infectious diseases. Bioaerosols occurring in the agricultural work environments comprise: bacteria, fungi, high molecular polymers produced by bacteria (endotoxin) or by fungi (β-glucans), low molecular secondary metabolites of fungi (mycotoxins, volatile organic compounds) and various particles of plant and animal origin. All these agents could be a cause of allergic and/or immunotoxic occupational diseases of respiratory organ (airways inflammation, rhinitis, toxic pneumonitis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and asthma), conjunctivitis and dermatitis in exposed workers. Very important among zoonotic agents causing occupational diseases are those causing tick-borne diseases: Lyme borreliosis, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis. Agricultural workers in tropical zones are exposed to mosquito bites causing malaria, the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the world. The group of agents causing other, basically not vector-borne zoonoses, comprises those evoking emerging or re-emerging diseases of global concern, such as: hantaviral diseases, avian and swine influenza, Q fever, leptospiroses, staphylococcal diseases caused by the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains, and diseases caused by parasitic protozoa. Among other infectious, non-zoonotic agents, the greatest hazard for health care workers pose the blood-borne human hepatitis and immunodefi ciency viruses (HBV, HCV, HIV). Of interest are also bacteria causing legionellosis in people occupationally exposed to droplet aerosols, mainly from warm water.
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