Occupational Asthma Reference

Gautrin D, Ghezzo H, InfanteRivard C et al, Natural history of sensitisation, symptoms and occupational diseases in apprentices exposed to laboratory animals, Eur Respir J, 2001;17:904-908,


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Denise Gautrin, Hôpital de Sacré Coeur, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Denise Gautrin

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The natural history of the development of sensitization and disease due to high-molecular-weight allergens is not well characterized. This study describes the time-course of the incidence of work-related symptoms, skin reactivity and occupational rhinoconjunctivitis (RC) and asthma (OA); and assesses the predictive value of skin testing and RC symptoms in apprentices exposed to laboratory animals, in a 3–4-yr programme.

Four-hundred and seventeen apprentices at five institutions were assessed prospectively with questionnaire, skin-testing with animal-derived allergens, spirometry and airway responsiveness (n=373). Depending on the school, students were seen 8 (n=136), 20 (n=345), 32 (n=355) and 44 (n=98) months after starting the programme.

At all visits, the incidence was greater for work-related RC symptoms followed in order by skin reactivity, occupational RC, and, almost equally, OA and work-related respiratory symptoms. The incidence-density figures were comparable for each follow-up period and for most indices up to 32 months after entry into the study and then tended to decrease. The positive predictive values (PPVs) of skin reactivity to work-related allergens for the development of work-related RC and respiratory symptoms were 30% and 9.0%, respectively, while the PPVs of work-related RC for the development of OA was 11.4%.

Sensitization, symptoms and diseases occur maximally in the first 2–3 yrs after starting exposure to laboratory animals. Skin reactivity to work-related allergens and rhinoconjuctivitis symptoms have low positive predictive values.

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