A cytogenetic approach to the effects of low levels of ionizing radiation (IR) on the exposed Tunisian hospital workers
Sana Bouraoui 1, 2  
,   Soumaya Mougou 1,   Afef Drira 3,   Faten Tabka 3,   Nouha Bouali 1,   Najib Mrizek 3,   Hatem Elghezal 1,   Ali Saad 1, 4
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Department of Cytogenetic and Reproductive Biology, Farhat Hached University Teaching Hospital, Sousse, Tunisia
Department of Cytogenetic and Reproductive Biology, Farhat Hached University Teaching Hospital, Ibn El Jazzar Street, 4000, Sousse, Tunisia
Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Farhat Hached University Teaching Hospital, Sousse, Tunisia
Common Service Units for Research in Genetics, Faculty of Medicine of Sousse, Sousse, Tunisia
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2013;26(1):144–154
Objectives: The aim of this study is to assess chromosomal damage in Tunisian hospital workers occupationally exposed to low levels of ionizing radiation (IR). Materials and Methods: The cytokinesis-block micronucleus (CBMN) assay in the peripheral lymphocytes of 67 exposed workers compared to 43 controls matched for gender, age and smoking habits was used. The clastogenic/aneugenic effect of IR was evaluated using the CBMN assay in combination with fluorescence in situ hybridization with human pan-centromeric DNA in all the exposed subjects and controls. Results: The study showed a signifi cant increase of the micronucleus (MN) frequency in the lymphocytes of the exposed workers compared to the control group (13.63±4.9‰ vs. 6.52±4.21‰, p < 0.05). The centromere analysis performed in our study showed that MNs in hospital staff were predominantly centromere negative (72%) and the mean negative labeled micronucleus (C–MN) frequency was signifi cantly higher in the exposed subjects than in the controls (9.04±4.57‰ vs. 1.17±0.77‰). The multivariate regression analysis, taking into account all confounding factors, showed that only the time of exposure to IR had a signifi cant effect on the level of MNs and C–MN. Conclusion: The present study shows that chromosomal damage leading to the formation of micronucleated lymphocytes is more frequent in the hospital workers exposed to IR than in the controls, despite the low levels of exposure. The results of the study confi rm the well-known clastogenic properties of ionizing radiation. In regards to health monitoring, detection of early genotoxic effects may allow for the adoption of preventive biological control measures, such as hygienic improvements in the workplace or reduction of hours of occupational exposure.