Humoral immune responses of workers occupationally exposed to wheat flour

Am J Ind Med. 1994 Nov;26(5):671-9. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700260509.


Wheat flour is a complex organic dust likely to induce immune responses when inhaled in work environment conditions. We compared the humoral status of 159 exposed workers from 11 flour mills and one industrial bakery with that of 41 workers from a salt factory. IgG, IgA, and IgM levels of antibodies to whole flour and to gliadin were assayed using ELISA tests in serum and saliva samples. Serum levels of IgG and IgA to both antigens were significantly higher (p < 0.0001) in occupationally exposed workers. Exposed workers had significantly higher levels of salivary IgG (p = 0.005) and IgA (p < 0.0001) to whole flour and of salivary IgG (p = 0.0005) to gliadin. In both groups, similar levels of anti-gliadin salivary IgA antibodies were observed. These data suggest that occupational exposure to wheat flour triggers specific immune responses, most likely through stimulation of the mucosal immune system. The presence of significant levels of serum antibodies, however, indicates that a systemic immunologic response is also present among exposed individuals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Antibody Formation / drug effects*
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flour / adverse effects*
  • Food-Processing Industry
  • France
  • Gliadin / adverse effects
  • Gliadin / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / analysis
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Saliva / immunology
  • Triticum / adverse effects*
  • Triticum / immunology


  • Immunoglobulins
  • Gliadin