Chironomid midge sensitization in sewage workers: case study

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Non-biting chironomid midges (Diptera: Chironomidae) may cause sensitization and allergic reactions in humans and have recently been identified as a potential health problem in Swedish municipal sewage treatment plants. To investigate, on a pilot scale, the allergenic potential of chironomids in sewage workers, all workers (n = 8) at a sewage treatment plant and local controls (n = 16) completed a symptom questionnaire, underwent measurement of the fraction of nitric oxide in exhaled air, spirometry, and provided serum samples for the determination of atopy status and the prevalence of specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies against Chironomus thummi (Chi t) using a commercial fluorescence enzyme immunoassay (FEIA). Three sewage workers (38%) but no controls (0%) were FEIA positive for C. thummi-specific IgE antibodies (P < 0.05). No other health-related findings were significantly different between the groups. The study suggested that occupational exposure to Chironomids may cause sensitization with circulating IgE-antibodies in sewage workers.

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