Background: Predatory mites are used as biological pesticides worldwide for control of spider mites and other pests in greenhouses. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of occupational exposure to Phytoseiulus persimilis and Hypoaspis miles on IgE sensitization among a large group of Swedish greenhouse workers and to examine the relationship between exposure and allergic asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis.
Methods: A total of 96 greenhouse workers from the southern part of Sweden, who were using the predatory mites for control of pests, were investigated with a questionnaire and a medical examination including lung function test. Blood samples were taken to test for allergen-specific IgE antibodies to Phytoseiulus persimilis and Hypoaspis miles as well as to Tetranychus urticae, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus/farinae and Tyrophagus putrescentiae.
Results: Seventeen of the 96 workers were positive in ImmunoCAP to predatory mites: 17 to P. persimilis (17.7%) and 14 to H. miles (14.6%). Subjects sensitized to predatory mites were significantly more often atopic (13/17), defined as a positive Phadiatop, than those who lacked IgE against these mite species (17/79) (P < 0.01). IgE antibodies to the red spider mite T. urticae were present among 23 subjects. Thirty-five of the investigated subjects displayed a positive ImmunoCAP to at least one of the investigated mite species. Furthermore, sensitization to any of the mites tested was significantly associated with asthma (OR = 9.3) and rhinoconjunctivitis (OR = 4.3).
Conclusions: IgE sensitization to predatory mites, P. persimilis and H. miles, is common among greenhouse workers. The findings stress the importance of improved allergen avoidance in greenhouse environments.