oa Current Allergy & Clinical Immunology - Sensitisation to maize in the wet-milling industry : allergies in the workplace

Volume 19, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1609-3607



Aims. The aims of this study in the South African maize wet-milling industry were to determine the extent of skin-prick reactions to extracts of common allergens (atopy) and to maize products in mill employees, to test for specific IgE to grain weevils and storage mites and to evaluate whether positive tests of sensitisation were associated with work-relatedsymptoms.Methods. A cross-sectional study was carried out in four maize mills and the company head office. Workers were then followed up at 6-monthly intervals over a period of 18 months. Examinations included symptoms, employment and exposure histories. Skin-prick tests were done: (i) for atopy using commercially available common allergens; (ii) with a commercial extract of Zea mays to determine positivity to maize pollen; and (iii) with in-house extracts of three mill products to determine sensitisation to maize products. Tests for IgE antibodies to grain weevils and storage mites were done using ImmunoCAP. Results. Our results showed that a high proportion of employees were atopic (over a third in most categories). Positive skin-prick tests to in-house maize extracts were common (24% at the cross-sectional study and 19% at follow-up), but this sensitisation to maize allergens was not always associated with work-related symptoms. Approximately 25% of subjects were sensitised to grain weevils or storage mites and this may be a factor in some symptomatic employees.

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