Background: Agriculture workers are exposed to microbial component- and particulate matter-enriched organic dust aerosols. Whereas it is clear that exposure to these aerosols can lead to lung inflammation, it is not known how inflammatory responses are resolved in some individuals while others develop chronic lung disease. Interleukin (IL)-10 is an immunomodulatory cytokine that is recognized as a potent anti-inflammatory and pro-resolving factor. The objective of this study was to determine whether there is a relationship of systemic IL-10 and proinflammatory responses and/or respiratory health effects in humans with prior agriculture exposure. Methods: This is a cross sectional study of 625 veterans with > 2 years of farming experience. Whole blood was stimulated with or without organic dust and measured for IL-6, TNFα and IL-10. Participants underwent spirometry and respiratory symptoms were assessed by questionnaire. Results: We found that baseline IL-10 concentration from the whole blood assay was inversely associated with ∆TNF-α (r = - 0.63) and ∆IL-6 (r = - 0.37) levels. Results remained highly significant in the linear regression model after adjusting for age, sex, BMI, race, education, smoking status, and white blood cell count (∆TNF-α, p < 0.0001; ∆IL-6, p < 0.0001). We found no association between chronic cough (p = 0.18), chronic phlegm (p = 0.31) and chronic bronchitis (p = 0.06) and baseline IL-10 levels using univariate logistic regression models. However, we did find that higher FEV1/FVC was significantly associated with increased baseline IL-10 concentration. Conclusions: Collectively, these studies support a potential role for IL-10 in modulating an inflammatory response and lung function in agriculture-exposed persons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166
JournalRespiratory Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 3 2018


  • Agriculture
  • Airway disease
  • IL-10
  • Organic dust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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