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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1998 May;101(5):709-15.

Specific IgE to isocyanates: a useful diagnostic role in occupational asthma.

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Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine (National Heart and Lung Institute), London, United Kingdom.



Isocyanates are the most frequent cause of occupational asthma in industrialized countries.


We sought to investigate the utility of specific IgE measurement in the diagnosis of isocyanate-induced asthma.


Fifty-eight of 101 patients referred for investigation were diagnosed as having isocyanate-induced occupational asthma by means of history, serial peak flow records, and bronchial provocation tests. Specific IgE antibodies to toluene diisocyanate:human serum albumin (HSA), diphenylmethane diisocyanate:HSA, and hexamethylene diisocyanate: HSA were measured in all patients by Phadebas RAST.


Twenty patients had a RAST ratio of 2 or greater to at least one isocyanate. Thirteen (28%) of the 46 patients with a positive provocation test response had a RAST ratio of 2 or greater, and nine (20%) had a RAST ratio of 3 or greater. Raising the RAST cut-off from 2 or greater to 3 or greater reduced its sensitivity but increased the specificity of the test to 100%. RAST measurement was most likely to be positive within 30 days of exposure. Serial measurements suggested that the half-life of the IgE antibodies was approximately 6 months. Evidence of cross-reactivity between isocyanate RAST responses was found in eight subjects.


Specific IgE to isocyanates is a more specific than sensitive index of occupational asthma. With a RAST score of 3 or greater, it is wholly specific and therefore diagnostic of isocyanate-induced asthma. The sensitivity of specific IgE measurement is highest when blood is taken less than 30 days from last exposure, which is consistent with the observed half-life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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