Authors: Mabe OD, Singh TS, Bello B, Jeebhay M, Lopata AL, Wadee A

Source: SA Med J, 2009, 99(9): 672-674


Latex allergy remains a well-recognized occupational health problem among healthcare workers (HCWs) including dental health care professionals. Previous studies have reported health effects associated with the use of latex rubber products, ranging from rhinitis and conjunctivitis to life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. Quantifying individual latex allergens to assess the allergenicity of latex products used in healthcare settings is necessary, so as to minimize the risk of sensitisation to these proteins. The current study investigated latex allergen content in different rubber products currently used in dental schools in public health care institutions in South Africa.

Fourteen latex examination gloves representing six brands (powdered and non-powdered) and five dental rubber dams were obtained from five South African public sector academic dental institutions. Total protein content and natural rubber allergen levels specific for Hev b 1, Hev b 3, Hev b 5 and Hev b 6.02 were determined in these rubber devices.

This study have showed that NRL allergens in latex materials used in South African dental academic institutions are present at sufficiently high levels to cause NRL sensitization and allergic symptoms. In addition to gloves, the dental dams pose a major risk to the dental profession. Measurement of specific latex allergens in latex products offers means to assess the allergenicity of the manufactured products. However, the current study also showed that total protein may be useful in estimating total allergen levels, particularly in under resourced countries as this assay is more cost-effective than the capture-ELISA. The international recommendations to use non-powdered low protein latex products appears to be poorly supported in South Africa, resulting in continued reports of latex allergy being reported locally when compared to industrialized countries where the NRL allergy epidemic has abated.

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