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Front Immunol. 2014 Mar 3;5:76. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00076. eCollection 2014.

Animal allergens and their presence in the environment.

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Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident Insurance, Institute of the Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum (IPA) , Bochum , Germany.


Exposure to animal allergens is a major risk factor for sensitization and allergic diseases. Besides mites and cockroaches, the most important animal allergens are derived from mammals. Cat and dog allergies affect the general population; whereas, allergies to rodents or cattle is an occupational problem. Exposure to animal allergens is not limited to direct contact to animals. Based on their aerodynamic properties, mammalian allergens easily become airborne, attach to clothing and hair, and can be spread from one environment to another. For example, the major cat allergen Fel d 1 was frequently found in homes without pets and in public buildings, including schools, day-care centers, and hospitals. Allergen concentrations in a particular environment showed high variability depending on numerous factors. Assessment of allergen exposure levels is a stepwise process that involves dust collection, allergen quantification, and data analysis. Whereas a number of different dust sampling strategies are used, ELISA assays have prevailed in the last years as the standard technique for quantification of allergen concentrations. This review focuses on allergens arising from domestic, farm, and laboratory animals and describes the ubiquity of mammalian allergens in the human environment. It includes an overview of exposure assessment studies carried out in different indoor settings (homes, schools, workplaces) using numerous sampling and analytical methods and summarizes significant factors influencing exposure levels. However, methodological differences among studies have contributed to the variability of the findings and make comparisons between studies difficult. Therefore, a general standardization of methods is needed and recommended.


allergen exposure; animal allergens; cats; cattle; dogs; environmental monitoring; horses; rodents

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