Pantoea agglomerans: a mysterious bacterium of evil and good. Part II. Deleterious effects: Dust-borne endotoxins and allergens – focus on grain dust, other agricultural dusts and wood dust

Marcin Golec 1,  
Department of Biological Health Hazards and Parasitology, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Department of Pneumonology, Oncology and Allergology, Medical University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland
Department of Medical Biology, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Clinic of Internal Medicine and Hypertension, Institute of Rural Health, Lublin, Poland
Ann Agric Environ Med 2016;23(1):6–29
[i][/i][i]Pantoea agglomerans[/i], a Gram-negative bacterium developing in a variety of plants as epiphyte or endophyte is particularly common in grain and grain dust, and has been identified by an interdisciplinary group from Lublin, eastern Poland, as a causative agent of work-related diseases associated with exposure to grain dust and other agricultural dusts. The concentration of [i]P. agglomerans[/i] in grain as well as in the settled grain and flour dust was found to be high, ranging from 10[sup]4[/sup] –10[sup]8 [/sup] CFU/g, while in the air polluted with grain or flour dust it ranged from 10[sup]3[/sup] –10[sup]5[/sup] CFU/m[sup]3[/sup] and formed 73.2–96% of the total airborne Gram-negative bacteria. The concentration of [i]P. agglomerans[/i] was also relatively high in the air of the facilities processing herbs and other plant materials, while it was lower in animal farms and in wood processing facilities. [i]Pantoea agglomerans[/i] produces a biologically-potent endotoxin (cell wall lipopolysaccharide, LPS). The significant part of this endotoxin occurs in dusts in the form of virus-sized globular nanoparticles measuring 10–50 nm that could be described as the ‘endotoxin super-macromolecules’. A highly significant relationship was found (R=0.804, P=0.000927) between the concentration of the viable [i]P. agglomerans[/i] in the air of various agricultural and wood industry settings and the concentration of bacterial endotoxin in the air, as assessed by the Limulus test. Although this result may be interfered by the presence of endotoxin produced by other Gram-negative species, it unequivocally suggests the primary role of the [i]P. agglomerans[/i] endotoxin as an adverse agent in the agricultural working environment, causing toxic pneumonitis (ODTS). Numerous experiments by the inhalation exposure of animals to various extracts of [i]P. agglomerans[/i] strains isolated from grain dust, including endotoxin isolated with trichloroacetic acid (LPS-TCA), endotoxin nanoparticles isolated in sucrose gradient (VECN), and mixture of proteins and endotoxin obtained by extraction of bacterial mass in saline (CA-S), showed the ability of these extracts to evoke inflammatory and fibrotic changes in the lungs, to stimulate alveolar macrophages to produce superoxide anion (O[sub]2[/sub][sup]-[/sup] ), interleukin-1 (IL-1) and chemotactic factors for other macrophages and neutrophils, and to increase the pulmonary concentrations of toll-like receptors and chemokines. The most potent properties showed the CA-S which may be attributed to the allergenic properties of [i]P. agglomerans[/i] proteins enhanced by the presence of the autologous endotoxin. The results of these experiments are in accord with the clinical studies which revealed a high reactivity of the agricultural and grain industry workers to allergenic extracts of [i]P. agglomerans[/i], and the presence in these populations of hypersensitivity pneumonitis and asthma cases caused by this bacterium. [i]P. agglomerans[/i] has been also identified as a potential causative agent of allergic dermatitis in farmers and of allergic pulmonary disorders in cattle. In conclusion, similar to the cotton industry, also in the grain industry and in agriculture, [i]Pantoea agglomerans[/i] should be regarded as one of the major causative agents of work-related diseases, caused by the adverse effects of protein allergens and endotoxin produced by this bacterium.