Background: Latex sensitisation is recognised as a health problem among health care workers (HCWs) using latex products. The aim of this study was to quantify specific latex allergens in latex devices used in South African academic dental schools. The current study also compared the total protein content and the levels of specific allergens in these products.
Methods: Fourteen latex examination gloves (powdered and non-powdered) and five dental rubber dams, representing 6 brands, from five dental academic institutions were analysed for latex allergens and total protein. Total protein content was determined using the BioRad DC protein assay kit and natural rubber allergen levels using a capture enyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) specific for Hev b 1, Hev b 3, Hev b 5 and Hev b 6.02.
Results: Hev b 6.02 was found in higher concentrations than other natural rubber latex (NRL) allergens in the products analysed. Hev b 5 content ranged from 0 to 9.2 microg/g and Hev b 6.02 from 0.09 to 61.5 microg/g of sample. Hev b 1 levels were below the detection limit (DL) for 79% of the samples (15/19). Dental dams showed higher allergen levels (median 80.91 microg/g) than latex gloves (median 11.34 microg/g). Powdered rubber samples also showed higher allergen levels (median 40.54 microg/g) than non-powdered samples (median 5.31 microg/g). A statistically significant correlation was observed between total protein and total allergen (r=0.74, p<0.001) concentrations.
Conclusion: NRL allergen concentrations differ significantly by product and brand. This study has demonstrated that NRL allergens in latex-containing products used in South African dental institutions are present at sufficiently high levels to pose an allergic health risk.