Asthma is an inflammatory disorder which is characterized by airway dysfunction and infiltration of inflammatory cells driven in large part by the activation of Th2 lymphocytes. Airway wall remodeling is an irreversible outcome of asthma that is observed in many, if not all cases of allergic asthma. The chronicity of asthma is evident in the number of adults who have the disease, nearly 32 million in the U.S. Agricultural operators/Occupational workers are continuously exposed to a complex mix of chemical, biological, and particulate insults and are at risk for developing chronic inflammatory lung diseases.
The objective of this proposal is to determine the extent to which secondary exposures to aflatoxin (a mycotoxin) can impact the development and maintenance of fungal allergic asthma. Although it is known that mycotoxins can play an important role in exacerbating allergic asthma, little is known about the role of aflatoxin in the context of fungal allergy. We will use an experimental model of fungal allergic asthma as the background for exposure to aflatoxin. We expect to identify and characterize the effect of aflatoxin on the allergy phenotype and Th2 polarization. The research is intended to allow farmers and ranchers to make evidence-based health and safety decisions for their animals, families, and communities.