Background Allergy to both house dust and storage mites is well established, but information about other species of mites is seant.
Objective One hundred and fifty patients directly exposed to an occupational environment were studied to assess whether spider mites (Tetranychidue) caused their allergic symptoms. We also studied a group of 50 patients from an urban environment, who were not occupationally exposed to spider mites, with a strong sensitization to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (RAST class 4).
Methods Case history (including questions about work-related symptoms), skin tests, RAST and conjunctival provocation tests were performed in both groups using Tetranychus urticae and Panonychus citri extracts as allergens. Cross-reactivity between spider mites and D. Pteronyssinus was determined by RAST inhibition.
Results Fifty-four of 150 rural workers were positive to Tetranychidae and in all cases there was an associated sensitization to D. pteronyssinus. All individuals belonging to the urban group were positive to spider mites. RAST inhibition demonstrated a significant cross-reactivity between Tetranychidae and D. pteronyssinus. Five of fifty-four rural workers sensitized to spider mites developed symptoms only when they handled plants or fruits infested with spider mites and they became asymptomatic when exposure ceased.
Conclusion In the rural population studied. 36% of workers were found to be sensitized to spider mites and 10% had symptoms associated with occupational exposure. Since specific IgE antibodies to spider mites could not be detected in the absence of the specific IgE antibodies to D. pteronyssinus, and as all the affected workers were RAST positive to D. pteronyssinus, prior sensitization to house dust mites may be a risk factor for occupational allergy to spider miles.