Authors: T Singh, Mrs Onnicah Matuka, M Jeebhay

Source: Current Allergy And Clinical Immunology 2010, 23(2):85-89


Endotoxin, a by-product of Gram-negative bacteria found ubiquitously in the environment, has elicited profuse interest in recent years. Workers in different occupational settings are exposed to organic dust containing endotoxins and are at risk of developing respiratory diseases. The relationship between endotoxin exposure and health effects is still controversial because of its paradoxical nature. Some studies have demonstrated protective response for developing asthma, while others show priming of the allergic response and an exacerbation of asthma. Endotoxins acting on their own cause neutrophilic inflammatory responses and a decline in lung function in exposed workers. Endotoxins in the presence of other allergens have also been shown to increase disease severity by acting as a natural adjuvant to augment atopic inflammation and asthma. No exposure limits have been set internationally as this substance is currently under review by exposure standards authorities.