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Clinical & Experimental Allergy

The prevalence of immunoglobulin E antibodies to the proteins of rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) latex and grass (Phleumpratense) pollen in sera of British blood donors


Kekwick School of Biochemistry, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.



Although there have been many studies of the prevalence of latex allergy in populations deemed to be at risk, little is known of the potential allergic susceptibility to latex products prevailing in the general population.


To assess the possible prevalence of allergy to latex goods in a population of blood donors by measurement of specific antilatex immunoglobulin (Ig) E in blood, to relate this to prevalence of antigrass IgE in the blood donations, and to assess the prevalence of antibodies to grass, house dust mite and cat allergens in those donors having antilatex IgE antibodies.


Sera from two groups of donations obtained in the English West Midlands were assayed. A group of 2000 donations obtained in midwinter was assayed for antilatex and antigrass pollen IgE. A group of 5000 midsummer donations was assayed for total IgE, and antilatex IgE and the sera giving a positive reaction, assayed for antigrass pollen, antihouse dust mite and anticat IgE. The nature of the principal latex and grass pollen polypeptides reacting with IgE in the sera was assessed by immunoblotting.


Anti-latex IgE was detected in approximately 4% of the winter and 7% of the summer donations. The prevalence of antigrass IgE in the winter donations was approximately 20% and amongst the latex-positive sera approximately 84% contained antigrass IgE. Of the summer donations of latex-positive sera, 96% contained antigrass, 48.6% antimite IgE and 34% anticat IgE. The prevalence of both antilatex and antigrass IgE was age and sex related. Inhibition studies indicated cross-reactivity of IgE with latex and grass pollen proteins.


Whilst 4–7% of the population may have serum IgE reacting with latex, the levels are low compared with those reacting with the aeroallergens studied. The apparent cross-reactivity of some serum IgE with both latex and grass pollen taken with other evidence suggests that, in some individuals, allergy to latex may arise from an initial sensitization by grass pollen.

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