The Healthy Dairy Worker Study

This study is characterizing dairy worker exposure to microbes and allergens common in dairies, which will provide a better understanding of whether these exposures provide immune benefits or an increased risk of disease. The “hygiene hypothesis” suggests that exposure to microbes on farms may have immune benefits and could be a critical determinant of whether farmworkers remain healthy or develop the occupational disease (e.g., infection and airway inflammation). This study is testing this hypothesis by recruiting new hires on dairy farms as well as existing worker and community controls and observing changes in the gut and nasal microbiome communities, as well as subject health status, over two years.

To date, we have completed most of our recruitment goals and communicate the results of respiratory function (exhaled nitric oxide and spirometry) back to participants. Recommendations were made for those with results outside of the norm to follow-up with their doctor.
Through additional PNASH Emerging Issues funding, we were able to include blood sample collection and analysis for a subset of participants to explore “next-generation sequencing” (NGS) for sequencing of whole bacterial genomes, which will provide more detailed information on genes, gene functional potential, and taxonomic resolution down to the strain-level.

We have also successfully extracted and sequenced DNA from our human and animal specimens and environmental samples.

Findings as reported at the end of year five are included in our interim report.

Principal Investigator: Peter Rabinowitz, MD, MPH Associate Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
University of Washington

NIOSH 2016-2022

Partners and Advisories
Washington State University, Department of Global Animal Health

Washington State Dairy Federation

UW Center for One Health Research

Brochure: Dairy Farming - Hygiene and HealthHigiene y Salud en las Lecherías

Brochure: The Partnership for Dairy Safety and Health

Abstract: Carmona J. 2019. The Healthy Dairy Worker Study: A Longitudinal Cohort Study of Dairy Workers’ Respiratory Health.

Pilot: Transmission of Microorganisms in Dairy Farms