Aqueous extracts of cotton and other vegetable dusts cause contraction of the isolated ileum and tracheal muscle of the guinea-pig, and of isolated human bronchial muscle. The levels of this contractor activity place the dusts of cotton, flax, and jute in the order of the probable incidence of byssinosis occurring in the mills spinning these fibres.
Extracts of cotton dust possess a histamine-liberating activity and contain a permeability-increasing component. These actions are of plant origin and are found in the pericarp and bracts of the cotton boll. Histamine and 5-hydroxytryptamine have also been found in some cotton dust samples. The formation of histamine by bacterial action in cotton dust does not take place under conditions found in cotton mills. The smooth muscle contractor substance is organic in nature, relatively heat-stable, and dialysable. The relevance of these results to the symptoms of byssinosis is discussed.
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