Dairy farmers have nose for science
Marshfield study: Microbial diversity in farmers’ noses and mouths may contribute to overall health
For Hub City Times
MARSHFIELD — The first study showing that the community of bacteria found on bodies of healthy dairy farmers is more diverse than nonfarmers has been published by Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in the journal PLoS ONE. This microbial diversity is believed to protect farmers against allergic and autoimmune diseases.
The nasal microbiota of dairy farmers had 2.15 times more organisms when compared to nasal sample of nonfarmers. Similarly, the oral samples from the dairy farmers group harbored 1.5 times more organisms, said lead author Dr. Sanjay Shukla. Additionally, the farmer group had lower relative abundance amounts of Staphylococcus bacterial species, some of which are known opportunistic pathogens.
The study was conducted in central Wisconsin. Samples were collected from the noses and mouths of 21 dairy farmers and 18 nonfarmers working office-based jobs.
A microscopic organism, or microbe, is a general term used to describe many different life forms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Before birth, human have no microbes. Within a few years, thousands of different species of microbes inhabit the body. Microbes vary with gender, diet, climate, age, occupation, and hygiene.
Shukla said he is excited about research possibilities.
“We still do not know much about the microbial occupational exposure of farmers, and this study provides some basic understanding of dairy farmers’ microbiome,” Shukla said, “but we need to do functional studies on repeated sampling on a larger cohort to understand the microbiome’s contribution to farmers’ overall health and disease.”
This study provides a foundation for research into the farm-as-medicine concept, which examines both the environmental risks and health-building aspects of farm life.
“This is a significant collaboration between the National Farm Medicine Center and the Center for Human Genetics,” said project co-investigator Dr. Casper “Cap” Bendixsen. “It explores the boundaries of what we consider ‘farm health,’ giving us a more complex, truer picture of how farm environments can be both hazardous and health-promoting.”
Future studies will be performed to analyze the relationships among the nasal and oral microbiomes of dairy farmers and nondairy farmers with respect to the number and type of adverse health outcomes.