Author(s): Bernstein JA, Bernstein DI, Stauder T, Lummus Z, Bernstein IL
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The presence of IgE-mediated occupational respiratory sensitization to microbial enzymes has been well documented in a variety of industries. Aspergillus oryzae -derived lactase is used as a dietary aid for patients with lactose intolerance. OBJECTIVE: In 1993, a cross-sectional survey of 94 pharmaceutical workers exposed to lactase for a mean duration of 23 months and 24 nonexposed recently hired employees was initiated to identify lactase-sensitized workers and potential risk factors that could be used in making recommendations for preventing future cases of lactase sensitization. METHODS: The survey included a physician-administered questionnaire, skin prick testing to lactase enzyme and a panel of common aeroallergens, and spirometry. RESULTS: Twenty-seven of 94 lactase-exposed workers (29\%) had positive skin test responses to lactase. These workers were 9 times more likely to have upper or lower respiratory symptoms compared with workers with negative skin test responses. Atopic workers were 4 times more likely to have lactase skin sensitivity than nonatopic workers. However, atopy was not a risk factor for the development of upper and/or lower respiratory symptoms. Lactase skin reactivity was not observed in the 24 nonexposed employees. CONCLUSION: This cross-sectional survey revealed that atopic workers were more likely to have lactase sensitization and that lactase-sensitized workers were more likely to have upper and/or lower respiratory symptoms, but atopy was not a risk factor for upper or lower respiratory symptoms. In spite of these findings, the company allowed only nonatopic, nonlactase-sensitized workers to continue working in high lactase-exposure areas with careful symptom monitoring and use of protective clothing. Although this strategy was successful in total prevention of new cases of occupational respiratory disease after 5 years, the results of this cross-sectional survey do not support exclusion of atopic workers from working with industrial enzymes.
This article was published in J Allergy Clin Immunol
and referenced in Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs: Open Access