Cork workers' occupational asthma: lack of association with allergic sensitisation to fungi of the work environment

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2004 May;77(4):296-300. doi: 10.1007/s00420-003-0494-x. Epub 2004 Jan 22.


Objectives: To evaluate allergic sensitisation to Chrysonilia sitophila, Penicillium glabrum, and Trichoderma longibrachiatum in cork workers with asthma.

Methods: Skin prick tests with a battery of common allergens and with the three fungi were performed on ten cork workers with asthma and eight non-exposed asthmatics. Based on serial peak expiratory flow measurements, five were classified as having occupational asthma (AO) and five as having non-occupational asthma (NOA). In exposed patients, specific antibodies for the three fungi were also studied by immunoblotting

Results: Two out of ten patients with occupational exposure and four out of eight of the control group showed positive results for skin prick tests for common allergens. Moreover, two out of five patients with OA and three out of eight controls exhibited sensitisation to storage mites. All exposed patients (with OA or NOA) had negative skin prick test results for the fungal extracts. In patients with asthma and occupational exposure, immunoblotting results confirmed the absence of specific IgE. However, specific IgG4 was present in some cases.

Conclusions: Atopy does not seem to characterise occupational asthma in cork workers. Despite their long exposure to moulds, we could not find evidence of IgE sensitisation to the three most prevalent cork fungi in patients with OA, which points to the search for other causative agents, such as cork chemical compounds or contaminants.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Dust / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitosporic Fungi / immunology*
  • Occupational Diseases / immunology*
  • Penicillium / immunology
  • Portugal
  • Skin Tests
  • Trees / microbiology*
  • Trichoderma / immunology
  • Wood


  • Allergens
  • Dust
  • Immunoglobulin E