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Occupational asthma caused by soybean flour in bakers—differences with soybean-induced epidemic asthma


Quirce Fundación Jiménez Díaz, Servicio de Alergia, Avenida Reyes Católicos 2, 28040 Madrid, Spain



Soybean dust has been identified as the causative agent of occupational asthma and asthma epidemics. Two main soybean hull allergens responsible for asthma outbreaks, Gly m 1 and Gly m 2, have been identified and purified.


The soybean allergens causing occupational asthma in exposed bakers were investigated and compared with those involved in epidemic asthma.


We report four bakers or confectioners with work-related respiratory symptoms who were exposed to soybean flour used as a baking additive. The causative role of soybean flour was investigated by immunological tests and specific inhalation challenge tests. Soybean flour allergens causing occupational asthma were characterized by immunoblotting. Immunoglobulin (Ig) E-reactivity to Gly m 1 and Gly m 2 was assessed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.


Sensitization to soybean flour was demonstrated by skin and serological tests and was confirmed by positive inhalation tests. Bronchial challenge test to soybean flour extract elicited immediate or dual asthmatic responses. Immunoblotting with soybean flour and soybean hull extracts showed IgE-binding mainly to high molecular weight (MW) allergens. There was an important individually different allergic response to inhalant soybean components. None of the patients showed IgE-reactivity against Gly m 1 and only one patient showed IgE-reactivity to the soybean hull allergen Gly m 2.


These bakery workers had developed IgE-mediated occupational asthma to soybean flour. The allergens involved in occupational asthma caused by soybean flour are predominantly high MW proteins that are present both in soybean hull and flour, and they are different from the allergens causing asthma outbreaks, which are mainly low MW proteins concentrated in the hull.