Prevalence of work-related symptoms and serum-specific antibodies to wheat flour in exposed workers in the bakery industry

Gyu Young Hur, Dong Hee Koh, Hyoun Ah Kim, Han Jung Park, Young Min Ye, Kyoo Sang Kim, Hae Sim Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Although baker's asthma (BA) is a common occupational asthma, there have been few reports on this disease in Korean subjects. Objectives: We evaluated the prevalence of serum-specific IgE, IgG1, and IgG4 antibodies in relation to work-related respiratory symptoms in a single industrial bakery. Methods: Three hundred and ninety-two bakery workers were administered and taken a questionnaire regarding respiratory symptoms. For symptomatic workers, the methacholine bronchial challenge test and specific bronchoprovocation tests with wheat extracts were carried out. Skin prick tests were performed and serum-specific IgE, IgG1, and IgG4 antibodies to wheat flour were detected. The IgE- and IgG4-binding components were identified by immunoblotting. Results: Sixty-seven workers (17.1%) complained of work-related upper and lower respiratory symptoms. The prevalence of BA based on positive bronchoprovocation test results was 1.5%. The sensitization rate to wheat flour was 5.9% by skin prick test and 6.5% by ELISA, and was closely associated with the presence of atopy and work-related lower respiratory symptoms (P<0.001 for both). IgE immunoblotting revealed six major IgE-binding components (27, 31, 36, 43, 54, and 72 kDa). The presence of wheat-specific IgG1 and IgG4 antibodies was found to be significantly associated with exposure intensity (P<0.05 for both). Conclusions: The overall prevalence of wheat sensitization in a Korean bakery was 5.9%. We confirmed that an IgE-mediated response is the major pathogenic mechanism for the induction of work-related symptoms in wheat-exposed workers. Wheat-specific IgG antibodies may represent current or previous exposure to wheat dust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-555
Number of pages8
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Apr
Externally publishedYes


  • Baker's asthma
  • Specific IgE
  • Specific IgG
  • Wheat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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