Introduction There are at least 12,000 laboratory animal workers in the UK who are at risk of developing an IgE-associated respiratory allergy to airborne animal proteins. There has been a drive to reduce animal allergen levels in animal facilities, however recent studies have suggested that laboratory workers may also transfer animal allergens outside of the animal facility to their offices, laboratories and indeed their homes. Among Scottish technicians Mus m 1 was detected on hands, shoes, car steering wheels and domestic door handles after leaving work (S. Semple – personal communication). Krop et al. detected significantly higher levels of mouse allergen in mattresses from the homes of laboratory animal workers than those from non-exposed controls suggesting carry out of allergen from work to home. These observations may have significant clinical relevance; in Poland, children of laboratory animal workers had a higher prevalence of sensitisation to mouse than did the children of parents in other occupations.
The aim of our study was to evaluate whether mouse allergen is transferred out of the animal facility on the skin of workers.
Methods We examined dermal wipes taken from forehead, palms and back of hands of both laboratory animal workers and non-exposed workers, when they entered the facility in the morning and again when they were ready to depart at the end of the day. Mus m 1 was extracted from the wipes and levels quantified using an ELISA (Indoor Biotechnology).
Results Mus m 1 levels were significantly higher in the dermal wipes taken at the end of the day compared to those taken in the morning (p < 0.05), in the laboratory animal workers but not in the non-exposed controls (Figure 1).
Conclusions In summary, our study demonstrates that laboratory animal workers carry out animal allergen on their skin when they leave the animal facility at the end of the day. The implication of these findings will be considered in the development of safe working practices in prevention of laboratory animal allergy within the context of the SPIRAL study.