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Wednesday 27 October 2021

Two Cavan mushroom pickers got really sick because of bird poop

It all ended up okay, in the end.

Image: Shutterstock

DOCTORS IN CAVAN have got to the bottom of a mysterious case of mushroom workers contracting ‘Bird fancier’s lung’.

Two workers in a mushroom growing plant presented to hospital with some nasty symptoms.

The first, a 37-year-old woman who worked as a scientist in the plant, was suffering from a persistent cough, shortness of breath and night sweats over 18 months.

Another, a 56-year-old farmer, also had a long-term cough, shortness of breath and continued to produce mucus despite antibiotics. The man was a farmer but also worked as a cleaner in the mushroom plant.

The Irish Medical Journal describes how their symptoms were consistent with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as ’Bird fancier’s lung’.

The condition causes the lungs to become inflamed and is so called because it is often caused by exposure to the proteins present in the droppings and sometimes feathers of birds.

Neither of the two workers had significant exposure to birds so further investigation was needed.

Normally, the compost used to grow mushrooms is produced by a combination of straw, horse manure, gypsum and inorganic nitrogen.

However, due to its plentiful supply locally, the compost being used at the plant was made using poultry manure.

The two workers would therefore have been exposed to the offending avian protein by exposure to the bird faeces in the compost.

As the IMJ report puts it, the story checks out:

In summary, we present two cases of bird fancier’s lung with a typical phenotype but unexpected exposure.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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