We are now in the epoch of “molecular allergology” and numerous clinically relevant allergenic molecules are available improving the performance of in vitro allergen tests and allergen detection methods. This review is focusing on characterized occupational allergens and their implementation into the in vitro diagnosis for occupational allergy and in allergen detection methods.
More than 400 occupational agents are identified and documented as being ‘respiratory sensitizers’, but currently only a limited number of them are characterized on the molecular level and available for routine diagnosis as native or recombinant allergens. One exception, however, is natural rubber latex (NRL) from Hevea brasiliensis still remaining an important occupational allergen source. Characterization of 15 NRL allergens led to the development of assays for the determination of allergen content of NRL materials and the implementation of component-resolved diagnosis (CRD) for specific IgE antibody measurement. Microarray or singleplex using recombinant or native allergens are reliable tools for NRL allergy diagnosis. In addition, NRL allergy is an excellent model for improving extract-based specific IgE measurement by amplification of NRL extract preparation with stable recombinant major allergen rHev b 5. Despite the many efforts to characterize the occupationally relevant wheat allergens for baker's asthma, the most frequently occurring forms of occupational asthma, the results are highly diverse. Wheat sensitization profiles of bakers showed great interindividual variability and no wheat allergen could be classified as the major allergen. For diagnosis of baker's asthma, a whole wheat extract is still the best option for specific IgE determination. But single wheat allergens might help to discriminate between wheat-induced food allergy, grass pollen allergy and baker's asthma. For workplace-related allergens like coffee, wood, soybean, seafood and moulds allergens are characterized and few of them are available, but their relevance for occupational sensitization routes should be verified in the further studies.