IgG4 antibodies against rodents in laboratory animal workers do not protect against allergic sensitization


  • Edited by: Hans-Uwe Simon

Dr E. J. M. Krop, Department of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80178, 3508 TD Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Tel.: +31-30-2539523
Fax: +31-30-2539499
E-mail: e.j.m.krop@uu.nl


To cite this article: Krop EJM, Doekes G, Heederik DJJ, Aalberse RC, van der Zee JS. IgG4 antibodies against rodents in laboratory animal workers do not protect against allergic sensitization. Allergy 2011; 66: 517–522.


Background:  The modified Th2 response, defined as an IgG4 response in the absence of IgE, is suggested to protect against the development of allergic sensitization. However, studies suggesting this protective effect all had a cross-sectional design, making it impossible to study the development of both responses.

Aim of the study:  We aimed to study the dynamics in IgG4 antibodies in relation to allergic sensitization in an occupational cohort of starting laboratory animal workers. Moreover, we studied the relation between exposure, antibody responses, atopy and self reported allergic symptoms.

Methods:  A total of 110 starting animal workers were followed for 2 years. IgG4 antibodies against rats and mice were assessed. Workers were tested for allergic sensitization and exposure to animal allergens was estimated. Symptom status was assessed using questionnaires.

Results:  Rat and mouse specific IgG4 antibodies were present before the development of allergy and did not significantly change over time. Allergic sensitization was related to exposure and atopic status but high levels of IgG4 showed no protective effect. In contrary, workers that developed mouse specific sensitization during follow up had higher levels of mouse specific IgG4. Symptoms were related to allergic sensitization and IgG4 levels did not influence that relationship.

Conclusions:  IgG4 antibodies are present before IgE antibodies develop and IgG4 levels are stable over time. In our occupational cohort, the modified Th2 response had no protective effect on development of sensitization or allergic symptoms.