Background: The role of Tetranychus urticae (TU) as an occupational allergen has thus far been investigated only in selected farmer samples.
Methods: The prevalence of TU-induced sensitization and occupational diseases in a randomized sample of farmers living in a temperate climate area was investigated. Occupational/nonoccupational symptoms, skin prick test (SPT) results with common allergens and TU, specific occupational test results, and greenhouse or open-field sources of TU exposure were assessed. The study design was cross-sectional.
Results: The prevalence of positive SPT to TU was 6%. TU-induced allergic/nonallergic complaints accounted for 65% of farmers with challenge-confirmed occupational disease. In all farmers, sensitization to common allergens was a risk factor for both current occupational and nonoccupational complaints, while TU sensitization was a prominent risk factor for occupational complaints. Furthermore, in SPT-positive farmers, only the presence of seasonal occupational complaints was significantly associated with TU sensitization. Common allergen sensitization was a risk factor for development of TU sensitization, which was more frequent in greenhouse than in open-field workers.
Conclusions: TU was a common nontraumatic, allergic occupational hazard for farmers. Since occupational seasonal symptoms could be directly related to the presence of TU sensitization, allergy to this mite should be routinely investigated in farmers.