Longitudinal changes of sensitization to farming-related antigens among young farmers

Respiration. 2001;68(1):46-50. doi: 10.1159/000050462.


Background: We have shown previously that the prevalence of allergic sensitization in Tyrolean farming students is high, with a clear relationship to occupational exposure.

Objectives: It was the aim of this investigation to assess longitudinal changes in sensitization and a possible impact on lung function.

Methods: Of the 147 farming students in the original cohort, we could re-examine 42 after a mean interval of 4.0 years. All individuals completed a questionnaire and had spirometry, skin prick tests, total and specific IgE analysis, and testing for precipitating antibodies.

Results: As compared to the first study, there was a decrease in the frequency of IgE-mediated allergy (30.1 vs. 54.8%; p < 0.05) and in total serum IgE levels (107.4 +/- 254 vs. 157.8 +/- 304 U/ml; p < 0.001). Conversely, 3 individuals had developed precipitating antibodies de novo, and those who had initially had a positive precipitin test (n = 6) were still positive. A larger-sized estate, the lack of a hay dryer, and the presence of moldy hay were confirmed as risk factors for allergic sensitization. Although there was a slight overall decrease in forced vital capacity, no new cases of occupational lung disease were found.

Conclusions: In young Tyrolean dairy farmers, the prevalence of precipitins is constantly high and rising while IgE-mediated allergy declines. Within 4 years, no clinically relevant impact of allergy on lung function was noticed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases* / immunology*
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Austria / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Immunization / methods
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis*
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Patch Tests
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / immunology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E