A survey of the prevalence of immunoglobulin-E (IgE) antibodies in grain elevator workers (SIC-5153) was conducted. The radioallergosorbent test (RAST) was performed on 175 samples of sera obtained from grain terminal workers as part of a NIOSH sponsored cross sectional study on the health effects of grain dust using aqueous extracts of commercial allergens prepared from grain and work site allergens from samples collected at the work site. The RAST assays were performed using the grain dusts bound to cellulose discs as supplied in commercial kits or bound to cellulose beads. Skin testing using extracts of the same dusts was performed for comparison purposes. The two RAST assays produced a significant discordance in the results. The RAST assay using extracts bound to cellulose beads generally produced a higher prevalence of positive reactions than the commercial disc method. This was taken to mean that the two RAST assays were measuring two different IgE specificities. The RAST assay using the bead method compared more favorably with the skin test data than the disc method. The authors conclude that aqueous extracts of grain dusts can be used as a course method for the RAST assay. The presence of IgE antibodies in response to occupationally associated antigens suggests that grain elevator workers may have an increased risk of developing respiratory problems.
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