Occupational Asthma Caused by Fish Inhalation

Allergy. 1997 Aug;52(8):866-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.1997.tb02159.x.


Occupational asthma (OA) due to fish inhalation, confirmed by specific bronchial challenge (SBC), has not been described as yet in medical literature, as far as we know. We describe two patients whose asthma was induced by occupational exposure to fish and confirmed by serial measurements of PEFR and SBC. Two fish-processing workers reported asthma symptoms related to their workplace. They were skin tested with fish extracts and their sera assayed for IgE antibodies to various fish species. Nonspecific bronchial reactivity was assessed by methacholine challenge. The occupational relationship was confirmed by PEFR monitoring in working and off-work periods. SBC with fish extracts was carried out to confirm the diagnosis of OA. Skin tests with raw and cooked plaice, salmon, hake, and tuna in patient 1 and anchovy, sardine, trout, salmon, Atlantic pomfret, and sole in patient 2 were positive. Specific IgE serum antibodies were found to salmon in patient 1 and to trout, anchovy, and salmon in patient 2. PEFR measurements differed significantly (P < 0.001) between work and off-work periods for both patients. A bronchial challenge with methacholine was positive in patient 1. SBC with raw hake, salmon, plaice, and tuna extracts in patient 1 and raw salmon extract in patient 2 were all positive with an immediate response. SBC with Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus extract was entirely negative in both patients. In three asthmatic, non-fish-allergic controls, SBC with tuna, hake, salmon, and plaice were all negative. These results suggest that fish inhalation can elicit IgE-mediated occupational asthma.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Fishes / immunology*
  • Glycoproteins / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Male
  • Methacholine Chloride / pharmacology
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Skin Tests


  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Glycoproteins
  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Immunoglobulin E