Background: According to studies from different countries, the prevalence of natural rubber latex sensitization in healthcare workers ranges from 2.9 to 17%.
Objective: To estimate the prevalence of NRL-specific IgE antibodies in healthcare workers in Israel.
Methods: Three hundred healthcare workers, mostly from a major pediatric tertiary care facility, and 15 non-healthcare workers completed a questionnaire on signs and symptoms of NRL allergy and other respiratory and food allergies. NRL-specific IgE antibodies were assayed with the DPC AlaSTAT-ELISA method.
Results: Seventy of the 300 workers (23.3%) reported symptoms of NRL allergy: hand eczema and pruritus in 63, upper respiratory tract and ocular symptoms in 10, shortness of breath in 2, and generalized rash in 6. None had anaphylaxis due to latex exposure. There was a significant correlation of symptoms of NRL allergy with atopy and job category (nurses, laboratory technicians, nurse assistants and dental medicine workers), but not with gender, age, or years of employment. The in vitro tests for specific IgE antibodies against NRL were positive (≥0.70 IU/ml) in five workers (1.66%).
Conclusions: This is the first study of the prevalence of NRL-specific IgE antibodies in healthcare workers in Israel. Our 1.66% sensitization rate is much lower than that reported for healthcare workers in other countries. This difference may be due to our inclusion of a study population with a relatively low exposure to latex gloves (pediatricians compared to surgeons). Further studies are needed in this and other high risk populations in Israel.
NRL = natural rubber latex