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Maize pollen is an important allergen in occupationally exposed workers

DOI: 10.1186/1745-6673-6-32

Keywords: cross-reactivity, IgE reactivity, maize pollen, maize pollination, sensitization

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In July 2010, 8 out of 11 subjects were examined who were repeatedly exposed to maize pollen by pollinating maize during their work in a biological research department. All 8 filled in a questionnaire and underwent skin prick testing (SPT) and immune-specific analyses.5 out of the 8 exposed subjects had repeatedly suffered for at least several weeks from rhinitis, 4 from conjunctivitis, 4 from urticaria, and 2 from shortness of breath upon occupational exposure to maize pollen. All symptomatic workers had specific IgE antibodies against maize pollen (CAP class ≥ 1). Interestingly, 4 of the 5 maize pollen-allergic subjects, but none of the 3 asymptomatic exposed workers had IgE antibodies specific for grass pollen. All but one of the maize pollen-allergic subjects had suffered from allergic grass pollen-related symptoms for 6 to 11 years before job-related exposure to maize pollen. Lung function testing was normal in all cases. In immunoblot analyses, the allergenic components could be identified as Zea m 1 and Zea m 13. The reactivity is mostly caused by cross-reactivity to the homologous allergens in temperate grass pollen. Two sera responded to Zea m 3, but interestingly not to the corresponding timothy allergen indicating maize-specific IgE reactivity.The present data suggest that subjects pollinating maize are at high risk of developing an allergy to maize pollen as a so far underestimated source of occupational allergens. For the screening of patients with suspected maize pollen sensitization, the determination of IgE antibodies specific for maize pollen is suitable.Maize belongs to the family of grasses (Poaceae) and is cultivated globally as one of the most important cereal crops worldwide. It is also an allergen source in contemporary nutrition. Allergy to maize is caused by proteins in the kernels. Zea m 14 as a heat-resistant lipid transfer protein (LTP) with a molecular weight of 9 kDa was identified as a major food allergen of maize mediating an immunogl


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