A 58-year-old pharmaceutical worker regularly developed asthma and rhinitis when handling bromelain, a purified protease of pineapple (Ananas comosus), at her workplace, where she had been employed for about 10 years. RAST and prick test showed strong positive reactions to bromelain. Both inhalation test with 0.03 mg bromelain and peroral challenge by ingestion of 190 g pineapple resulted in asthmatic reactions; the latter challenge was accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms. Five of six workers sensitized to papain, showed positive RAST and skin test results to bromelain, two of them also showed immediate asthmatic reactions after bronchial challenge with bromelain. Out of sixty asthmatics not exposed to airborne proteases but probably to these as constituents of foods, two had positive skin test results and eight had positive RAST results to bromelain; but in no case was there clear evidence for clinical sensitization.
The presented data prove conclusively that bromelain is capable of inducing IgE mediated respiratory and gastrointestinal allergic reactions. Furthermore, there is evidence for immunological cross-reaction between the two plant proteases bromelain and papain in human subjects.
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