OBJECTIVES: Laboratory animal allergy is a highly prevalent occupational disease among exposed workers. The aim of the study was to validate the biomarkers of airway inflammation in laboratory animal (LA) care workers. METHODS: All of the participants in this observational study (63 LA care workers and 64 controls) were administered a clinical questionnaire, underwent spirometry and a skin prick or radioallergosorbent test for common and occupational aeroallergens, and the fraction of exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO50), exhaled breath condensate hydrogen peroxide (EBC H2O2) and serum pneumoprotein levels were measured. Multivariate analysis (ANCOVA) was used to assess the interactions of the variables. RESULTS: FeNO50 levels correlated with exposure (p = 0.002), sensitisation (p = 0.000) and age (p = 0.001), but there was no interaction between exposure and sensitisation when age was considered in the model (p = 0.146). EBC-H2O2 levels were higher in the sensitised workers than in the sensitised controls [0.14 (0.08-0.29) µM vs 0.07 (0.05-0.12) µM; p < 0.05]. Serum surfactant protein A (SP-A) levels were unaffected by exposure, sensitisation or age, although higher levels were observed in symptomatic workers; however, SP-D levels were influenced by exposure (p = 0.024) and age (p = 0.022), and club cell 16 levels were influenced by sensitisation (p = 0.027) and age (p = 0.019). CONCLUSIONS: The presence of the clinical symptoms associated with LA exposure and high FeNO levels should prompt further medical assessments in LA workers. Although EBC-H2O2 levels do not seem to reflect eosinophilic inflammation, serum SP-A levels could be used to monitor progression from rhinitis to asthma.
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