Consequences of exposure to pollutants on respiratory health: From genetic correlations to causal relationships


Modern society grew rapidly over the last few decades and this led to an alarming increase in air pollutants and a worsening of the human health, especially in relation to the respiratory system. Indeed, chronic respiratory diseases were the third main cause of death in 2017, with over 3 million of deaths. Furthermore, the pollution has considerable consequences both for burden medical expenses and environmental. However, the mechanisms linking pollutants to the onset of these diseases remain unclear. Thus, in this study we addressed this problem through the United Kingdom BioBank database, analyzing 170 genome-wide association studies (103 related to respiratory diseases and 67 related to pollutants). We analyzed the genetic correlations and causal relationships of these traits, leveraging the summary statistics and bioinformatics packages such as Linkage Disequilibrium Score Regression and Latent Causal Variable. We obtained 158 significant genetic correlations and subsequently we analyzed them through the Latent Causal Variable analysis, obtaining 20 significant causal relationships. The most significant were between “Workplace full of chemicals or other fumes: Sometimes” and “Condition that has ever been diagnosed by a doctor: Asthma” and between “Workplace very dusty: Sometimes” and “Condition that has ever been diagnosed by a doctor: Emphysema or chronic bronchitis”. Finally, we identified single nucleotide polymorphisms independently associated with sveral pollutants to analyze the genes and pathways that could be involved in the onset of the aforementioned respiratory system disorders and that could be useful clinical target. This study highlighted how crucial are the air condition of the working environments and the type of transport used in the onset of respiratory-related morbidity. Based on that, we also suggested some interventions, in order to improve quality life and develop new and eco-friendly society and life style, such as improving indoor air circulation, the use of public transport and urban reforestation.

Authors: Salvatore D’Antona, Isabella Castiglioni, Danilo Porro, Claudia Cava
; Full Source: PLoS One. 2022 Nov 17;17(11):e0277235. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0277235. eCollection 2022.