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Airborne exposure to wheat allergens: measurement by human immunoglobulin G4 and rabbit immunoglobulin G immunoassays


Jelena Bogdanovic, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80178, 3508 TD Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Background: Exposure to airborne wheat allergens in the bakery trade is associated with a high risk of occupational allergy and asthma. Control and reduction of allergen exposure require relatively simple but reliable monitoring techniques. We developed new rabbit IgG-based enzyme immunoassays (EIA) for wheat allergens, which might be a convenient alternative for the thus far used human IgG4 inhibition assay.

Methods: The reactivity and specificity of rabbit antibodies were assessed by EIA and immunoblotting, and compared with those of IgE from wheat-sensitized bakers, and with the antibodies used in the IgG4 inhibition EIA. An IgG inhibition and a sandwich EIA were developed for analysis of airborne dust samples.

Results: Human IgG4 and rabbit IgG inhibition EIAs had comparable sensitivities, with limits of detection (LOD) between 18 and 88 ng/mL, while the sandwich EIA was much more sensitive (LOD<0.2 ng/mL). Human IgG4 and rabbit IgG reacted in immunoblotting with most of the IgE-binding wheat proteins, although with quantitative differences. All three assays showed a strong reaction with wheat proteins, and some cross-reactivity with rye and barley, but were further highly specific for cereal flour proteins. Concentrations measured with the three EIAs in 432 airborne dust samples were highly correlated (r>0.95) and their absolute values showed less than 10–20% differences.

Conclusion: The rabbit IgG EIAs are valid substitutes for the human IgG4 inhibition EIA, with important practical advantages. The inhibition EIA is recommended for routine wheat allergen measurements. The sandwich EIA may be used to measure low allergen levels, as in short task-related exposure measurements or in subfractions of airborne dust samples.