Occupational exposure and sensitization to fungi among museum workers

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Abstract

Background

Museum employees are exposed to fungi and storage mites in the workplace.

Aims

To evaluate the prevalence and risk factors of sensitization to moulds, as well as clinical symptoms associated with allergy in museum workers.

Methods

A total of 103 employees of the Polish National Museum (NM) in Warsaw, potentially exposed to fungi during their work, were assessed using a questionnaire and skin prick tests to common allergens and fungal extracts. The level of total and serum-specific IgE to moulds was evaluated, and spirometry was performed in all subjects. Mycological analysis of the workplace was also performed.

Results

Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Alternaria, Trichoderma, Acremonium and Paecilomyces were the most frequent species isolated from investigated exhibits of NM. Thirty per cent of museum employees were sensitized to at least one of the fungal allergens. Logistic regression analysis revealed that duration of occupational exposure lasting >5 years, family history of atopy, presence of a cat at home, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis and a history of frequent respiratory infections were risk factors for the development of sensitization to fungi in this working group.

Conclusions

This study suggests an important role of fungi as occupational allergens for museum workers. The prevalence of allergic symptoms among employees of NM was relatively high. Further studies are necessary to elucidate the importance of particular fungal species in the development of occupational allergy.

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