Get access
Clinical & Experimental Allergy

Exposure of laboratory animal workers to airborne rat and mouse urinary allergens


Dr G. Doeket. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Agricultural University Wageningen, PO Box 238. 6700 AE Wageningen. the Netherlands.


Background Laboratory animal workers are at high risk of developing occupational allergy. Little is known about the relationship between levels of exposure and the risk of developing laboratory animal allergy. Since laboratory animal work comprises a large number of different — often short lasting — tasks, it is of interest to assess which activities are associated with high. low or intermediate levels of allergen exposure. Objective To develop and evaluate highly sensitive immunoassays in order to quantify rat and mouse urinary allergens in airborne dust sampled during short-lasting tasks.

Objective Personal air dust samples were taken during full-shift periods as well as during specific tasks in seven laboratory animal facilities. Two sandwich enzyme immunoassays were developed, using rabbit antisera against rat and mouse urinary proteins. The rabbit antibodies were analysed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and immunoblotting and compared with IgE antibodies from sensitized laboratory animal workers.

Results The rabbit antibodies were highly specific for rat and mouse urinary proteins and reacted with all IgE-binding allergens in either urinary protein preparation. The assays for rat and mouse urine were very sensitive, with detection limits of 0.075 ng/mL. The coefficient of variation of the analysis was 12.9% for both assays. Animal caretakers appeared to experience the highest exposure to aeroallergens. A large variation in exposure within jobs was found, due to differences between tasks performed during the sampling day and the facility worked at. The highest exposure levels were found during removal of contaminated bedding from the cages. However, rat and mouse allergen exposure levels during this task varied enormously between facilities, 1.1–158ngeq/m and 0.63– 2000ngeq/m3. respectively.

Conclusion Both sandwich immunoassays are highly specific and sensitive and are able to identify tasks of relatively short duration with high, medium and low exposure to airborne rat and mouse urinary allergens.

Get access to the full text of this article