Longitudinal Study of Sensitization to Natural Rubber Latex among Dental School Students using Powder-free Gloves

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Abstract

Background

A high rate of sensitization and clinical allergy to latex proteins has been reported in health care personnel. This is thought to be due to increased occupational exposure especially to natural rubber latex (NRL) gloves with an estimated prevalence varying widely (2.8–18%).

Objective

This was a longitudinal study to monitor a cohort of first-year dental students throughout 4 study years during exposure to powder-free gloves. Their atopic status was determined by skin prick testing using a panel of common allergens, and any sensitivity to latex proteins and the cross-reacting food allergens assessed.

Methods

Skin prick testing was carried out on the volunteers using latex, avocado, kiwi, banana, grass pollens, tree pollen, house dust mite and cat dander. Each volunteer completed a questionnaire detailing allergic history and any previous latex exposure.

Results

Skin prick testing showed a 65% incidence of atopy in the longitudinal study group. Initial latex skin testing was positive in 3 of the 63 students followed throughout their period of study. Subsequent testing gave a negative result in one student and one declined retesting. The third continued to give a positive response on each testing; she wore only nitrile gloves and remained free of clinical NRL allergy symptoms. No student developed latex sensitivity during the 5 yr of this study.

Conclusion

Exposure to powder-free latex gloves was not associated with subsequent sensitization over 5 yr in a population with a high atopic incidence.

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