The role of lymphocyte proliferation tests in assessing occupational sensitization and disease

Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Apr;12(2):102-10. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283511396.


Purpose of review: Lymphocyte proliferation testing (LPT) is used in diagnosing occupationally acquired delayed-type hypersensitivity. It has been used in beryllium-health effects, and its role is expanding in metal allergy. It may find application in diagnosis of other sensitizers.

Recent findings: Use of the beryllium LPT (BeLPT) in medical surveillance identifies beryllium sensitization at low exposure with chronic beryllium disease (CBD) that leads to physiologic impairment and need for immunosuppressive medications. New studies indicate that both beryllium exposure and genetic variation are associated with increased risk of CBD. Borderline positive BeLPTs warrant inclusion into diagnostic algorithms. Furthermore, use of LPTs to diagnose metal allergy is being proposed in diagnosis of chromium allergy and hypersensitivity to surgical implants. New occupational sensitizers continue to be identified including metalworking fluids, the sterilizing agent ortho-phthalaldehyde and the solvent para-chlorobenzotrifluoride. Use of LPT in occupational surveillance to these agents and other known sensitizers may play expanding roles.

Summary: Lymphocyte proliferation testing serves a valuable role in diagnosing occupational sensitization, as demonstrated with beryllium-health effects, as cases continue to be found at low exposure levels. The use of LPTs in diagnosing contact allergy is expanding, and new applications may be identified in human and animal studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Berylliosis / diagnosis
  • Berylliosis / immunology
  • Beryllium / toxicity
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Occupational Diseases / immunology
  • Occupational Exposure
  • o-Phthalaldehyde / adverse effects


  • Allergens
  • o-Phthalaldehyde
  • Beryllium