Occupational asthma and rhinitis related to laboratory rats: serum IgG and IgE antibodies to the rat urinary allergen

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1987 Mar;79(3):505-15. doi: 10.1016/0091-6749(87)90369-1.


Allergic reactions to rat urinary proteins are an important cause of occupational asthma and rhinitis among laboratory workers. We have measured IgG and IgE antibodies to a purified rat urinary allergen in sera from 179 laboratory workers of whom 30 reported symptoms on exposure to rats. There was a very good correlation between IgE antibodies and positive skin tests. In addition, there was a close correlation between reported asthmatic reactions and serum IgE antibody to rat allergen: IgE ab was present in 12/18 of workers with asthmatic reactions but in only 2/135 of workers without symptoms (p less than 0.001). Serum IgG antibodies to rat allergen were present in all sera with IgE antibody but were also present in 30% of asymptomatic individuals. The incidence and quantity of IgG antibody correlated with the degree of exposure to animals (i.e., hours per day) but not with the length of exposure in years. Our results on rat allergy confirm that there is an increased incidence of asthma among individuals who were atopic as judged by positive skin tests to other allergens. However, this relationship did not apply to individuals with rhinitis alone, and excluding atopic individuals from employment would have been a very inefficient method of reducing asthma or rhinitis in this group. Our results confirm that IgE antibody responses to rat urinary allergen are an important cause of occupational disease. The results for IgG antibody suggest that their prevalence represents a marker for the degree of exposure to rat proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Laboratory / immunology*
  • Antibodies / analysis
  • Antigens, Fungal / immunology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / immunology
  • Proteinuria / immunology
  • Rats
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / etiology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / immunology
  • Skin Tests
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens, Fungal
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin E