Objectives Significant excess risks of lung cancer and haematologic neoplasms have been observed in slaughterhouse workers in eight New Zealand studies, and numerous studies conducted elsewhere. No specific causal agents have been identified, although a biological aetiology is suggested as the risk is highest in those areas where workers are exposed to live animals or to biological material containing animal urine, faeces or blood. This study aimed to assess the airborne bacterial microflora in the slaughterhouse environment in order to develop exposure categories for reanalysis of a meat workers’ cohort.
Method Bulk air samples (n = 31) were collected for between 5 and 8 h in five areas in both sheep and beef slaughterhouses using a SASS3100 sampler (fitted with a proprietary SASS filter) located between 0.5 and 2 metres from the worker. Nucleic acid was extracted from each filter and amplified using commercially available kits, then sequenced on an Illumina MiSeq instrument. Bioinformatics analyses conducted included comparative taxonomic analyses, gene function (including virulence factor) analyses, and principal component analyses to compare profiles in samples taken in different areas.
Results Of the bacteria identified over 95% were in the classes Actinobacteria, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria. Clear differences in all parameters were apparent in the different areas, however, and the full results of the comparative analyses and the development of exposure profiles will be presented.
Conclusions Metagenomic analysis of bioaerosol samples represents a promising method for the development of exposure categories for the epidemiological analysis of the effect of biological exposures in an occupational environment.
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