Precipitin response of potato processing workers to work-related microbial allergens.

Ann Agric Environ Med 2002;9(2):237–242
Serum samples from 61 potato processing workers and 30 urban dwellers not exposed to organic dusts (as a reference group) were examined in agar-gel precipitation test performed by Ouchterlony double diffusion method with the antigens of 12 microorganisms associated with organic dusts. Each serum was tested twice: not concentrated, and three-fold concentrated, for the detection of low levels of precipitins. The antibody response of workers to the antigen of coryneform bacterium Agromyces ramosus was high, at both not concentrated and 3-fold concentrated sera (respectively 29.5% and 45.9%)--significantly greater than in reference group (p < 0.001). Workers' response to the antigens of Gram-negative bacterium Alcaligenes faecalis and thermophilic actinomycete Thermoactinomyces vulgaris was lower (respectively 13.1% and 13.1% at not concentrated sera, 24.6% and 29.5% at 3-fold concentrated sera) but in all cases significantly greater than in reference group (p < 0.05 at not concentrated sera, p < 0.01 and p < 0.001 at 3-fold concentrated sera). The frequency of positive precipitin reactions of potato workers to antigen of Penicillium citrinum was high only at 3-fold concentrated sera (55.7%)--significantly higher compared to reference group (p < 0.001). The antibody response of potato workers to other antigens was either unspecific or low, showing no significant difference compared to reference group. Twenty eight out of 61 examined potato processing workers (45.9%) reported the occurrence of the work-related pulmonary symptoms. The frequency of positive precipitin reactions to Agromyces ramosus, Alcaligenes faecalis, Thermoactinomyces vulgaris, Penicillium citrinum and Acinetobacter calcoaceticus was significantly greater in the subgroup of 28 workers reporting work-related pulmonary symptoms compared to 33 asymptomatic workers (p < 0.05). Study results suggest that antigens of Agromyces ramosus, Alcaligenes faecalis, Thermoactinomyces vulgaris and Penicillium citrinum should be considered as potential occupational allergens, probably stimulating an adverse immunopathological reaction in the exposed potato processing workers.