Animal allergen sensitization in veterinarians and laboratory animal workers

Occup Med (Lond). 2014 Oct;64(7):516-20. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqu097. Epub 2014 Aug 7.


Background: Animals secrete allergens into the environment and exposure to these in the workplace may cause sensitization.

Aims: To identify the frequency of animal allergen sensitization and symptoms in animal workers.

Methods: Using skin prick tests (SPT), we assessed sensitization to 15 mammal and bird allergens in animal workers and controls. We also recorded symptoms and pulmonary function tests.

Results: There were 100 animal workers and 50 controls included in the study. Thirty-six per cent of animal workers and 10% of controls had positive SPT (P < 0.001, odds ratio [OR] = 5.1, 95% CI 1.7-16.0). The most common sensitizations were to horse (16% in animal workers versus 0% in controls, P < 0.01), canary (16% in animal workers versus 2% in controls, P < 0.05, OR = 9.3, 95% CI 1.2-194), cattle (13% in animal workers versus 0% in controls, P < 0.05), cat (12% in animal workers versus 6% in controls, not significant), rabbit and hamster (10% each in animal workers versus 0% in controls, P < 0.05). Allergy symptoms were reported by 52 animal workers, but only 36 of them had positive SPT. Twelve animal workers had abnormal pulmonary function tests and six had positive SPT.

Conclusions: Animal workers are at high risk of occupational sensitization to animal allergens. Exposure should be minimized through control measures and worker education about the risks of exposure and sensitization.

Keywords: Bird allergens; laboratory animal worker; mammalian allergens; veterinarians..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animal Technicians*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Laboratory / immunology
  • Birds*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Male
  • Mammals*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupations
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Tests
  • Veterinarians*
  • Young Adult


  • Allergens