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Occup Environ Med. 2017 Jan;74(1):39-45. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2015-103442. Epub 2016 Sep 21.

Sensitising effects of genetically modified enzymes used in flavour, fragrance, detergence and pharmaceutical production: cross-sectional study.

Author information

1
Occupational Toxicology and Immunology Unit, Institute for Occupational and Maritime Medicine (ZfAM), University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.
2
European Society for Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Berlin, Germany.
3
Consultant on Occupational Lung Diseases and Allergy, Berlin, Germany.
4
Occupational Lung Disease Unit, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, UK.
5
Occupational Lung Diseases and Allergy Unit, Charité Institute for Occupational Medicine (CIOM), Campus Benjamin Franklin, Charité-School of Medicine, Berlin, Germany.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

The use of genetically engineered enzymes in the synthesis of flavourings, fragrances and other applications has increased tremendously. There is, however, a paucity of data on sensitisation and/or allergy to the finished products. We aimed to review the use of genetically modified enzymes and the enormous challenges in human biomonitoring studies with suitable assays of specific IgE to a variety of modified enzyme proteins in occupational settings and measure specific IgE to modified enzymes in exposed workers.

METHODS:

Specific IgE antibodies against workplace-specific individual enzymes were measured by the specific fluorescence enzyme-labelled immunoassay in 813 exposed workers seen in cross-sectional surveys.

RESULTS:

Twenty-three per cent of all exposed workers showed type I sensitisation with IgE antibodies directed against respective workplace-specific enzymes. The highest sensitisation frequencies observed were for workers exposed enzymes derived from α-amylase (44%), followed by stainzyme (41%), pancreatinin (35%), savinase (31%), papain (31%), ovozyme (28%), phytase (16%), trypsin (15%) and lipase (4%). The highest individual antibody levels (up to 110 kU/L) were detected in workers exposed to phytase, xylanase and glucanase. In a subgroup comprising 134 workers, detailed clinical diagnostics confirmed work-related symptoms. There was a strong correlation (r=0.75, p<0.0001) between the symptoms and antibody levels. Workers with work-related respiratory symptoms showed a higher prevalence for the presence of specific IgE antibodies against workplace-specific enzymes than asymptomatic exposed workers (likelihood ratio 2.32, sensitivity 0.92, specificity 0.6).

CONCLUSIONS:

Our data confirm the previous findings showing that genetically engineered enzymes are potent allergens eliciting immediate-type sensitisation. Owing to lack of commercial diagnostic tests, few of those exposed receive regular surveillance including biomonitoring with relevant specific IgE assays.

KEYWORDS:

genetically modified enzymes; health risks; sensitization; specific IgE antibodies; type I allergy

PMID:
27655774
DOI:
10.1136/oemed-2015-103442
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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