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Occupational asthma secondary to enzymes used in cheese production

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Occupational asthma (OA) accounts for 5–10% of all asthma in adults. Although OA secondary to enzymes has been reported, it is rare in the context of food preparation. In the cheese production industry, multiple powdered enzymes are used to soften and flavor cheese. Work-related asthma secondary to enzymes used in this manner has not been previously reported. We present two cases of OA after exposure to airborne enzyme powders used in cheese production. Both patients were adult women without histories of asthma who worked in a facility that used fungal and pancreatic-based enzymes to soften and flavor cheese. Both developed asthma symptoms within 1 year of employment and experienced relief of symptoms away from work. One patient had occupational rhinitis. Each underwent allergy skin testing, chest radiograph, pulmonary function testing, and methacholine challenge. Both patients had markedly positive skin tests to multiple enzyme antigens used at work. Spirometry, lung volumes, and chest radiographs were normal for both patients when they were asymptomatic and had implemented avoidance measures. Methacholine challenge was positive in one patient (PC20 = 0.13 mg/mL). Both workers took appropriate respiratory protection measures during powder exposure and their symptoms improved. Enzyme powder used in cheese production is a trigger for OA.
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Keywords: Asthma; cheese; enzymes; methacholine; occupational; rhinitis; work related

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Section of Allergy and Immunology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma and by having the potential to directly impact the quality of patient care. AAP welcomes the submission of original works including peer-reviewed original research and clinical trial results. Additionally, as the official journal of the Eastern Allergy Conference (EAC), AAP will publish content from EAC poster sessions as well as review articles derived from EAC lectures.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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