Background: Natural rubber latex is a recognized allergen, but a recent meta-analysis failed to find any association between latex exposure and allergy in health care workers (HCWs).
Objectives: A meta-analysis was carried out under the auspices of the French National Regulatory Authority to assess the allergic risk induced by latex gloves in HCWs.
Methods: The risk of work-related exposure to latex for the development of latex allergy was assessed. Prevalence and incidence rates of latex sensitization or allergy were compared in HCWs and in the general population. Exposure-response relationships were assessed in HCWs.
Results: Latex allergy was found in 4.32% (range, 4.01% to 4.63%) of HCWs and in 1.37% (range, 0.43% to 2.31%) of the general population. Latex-positive skin prick test responses ranged from 2.1% to 3.7% in the general population and from 6.9% to 7.8% for the HCWs. HCWs exposed to latex showed an increased risk of hand dermatitis (odds ratio [OR], 2.46; 95% CI, 2.11-2.86), asthma or wheezing (OR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.15-2.08), rhinoconjunctivitis (OR, 2.73; 95% CI, 1.97-3.81), and at least one generic symptom (OR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.09-1.47). Sensitization to latex was significantly associated with asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis. By contrast, exposure to latex was not associated with a significantly increased risk of positive skin prick test responses to latex (OR, 1.47; 95% CI, 0.94-2.30).
Conclusion: HCWs have an increased risk of sensitization and allergic symptoms to latex.
Clinical implications: Prevention of latex allergy in HCWs is needed.