Asthma caused by bromelain: an occupational allergy

Authors


Dr Gero Gailhofer, Department of Dermatology, University of Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 8, A-8036 Graz, Austria.

Summary

Bromelains consist of a group of proteolytic enzymes of Bromeliaceae. They are commonly used in pharmaceutical industries, food production and in diagnostic laboratories. Bromelains are known to cause IgE-mediated reactions of both the immediate type and the‘late phase reaction of immediate type reaction’ with predominantly respiratory symptoms. We report four cases of occupational allergy to bromelain in workers of a blood grouping laboratory. These observations prompted us to investigate the sensitization rate to bromelain in all workers of the particular diagnostic laboratory who had contact with bromelain. These results were compared with those obtained from healthy, randomly selected individuals without evident bromelain exposure. Our findings indicate that (i) bromelain is a strong sensitizer, (ii) sensitization usually occurs due to inhalation and not to ingestion, (iii) bromelain allergy is occupationally acquired, and adequate precautions are necessary. We can further state that (iv) skin testing with relatively pure allergens such as isolated proteases like bromelain may induce systemic reactions, even at very high dilutions.

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