HLA associations with occupational sensitization to rat lipocalin allergens: a model for other animal allergies?

Hayley Jeal, Adrian Draper, Meinir Jones, Jessica M Harris, Ken Welsh, Anthony Newman Taylor, Paul Cullinan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Laboratory animal allergy is a common occupational health problem affecting between 11% and 44% of exposed researchers. Allergy to rats and mice is most common, probably because these are the animals most frequently used.

OBJECTIVE: We hypothesized that HLA class II molecules, involved in the presentation of allergen to the T cell and likely candidates for controlling the immune response, might be associated with sensitization to rat urinary proteins among laboratory animal handlers.

METHODS: We undertook a cross-sectional study of 741 employees at 6 pharmaceutical sites across the United Kingdom who had contact at work with laboratory rats. In all, 109 cases with specific sensitization to rat proteins and 397 referents were HLA-typed for DRB1 and DQB1 loci. Amino acid analyses of significantly associated HLA molecules were carried out.

RESULTS: HLA-DR7 was associated with sensitization (odds ratio [OR], 1.82; CI, 1.12-2.97), respiratory symptoms at work (OR, 2.96; CI, 1.64-5.37) and, most strongly, sensitization with symptoms (OR, 3.81; CI, 1.90-7.65). HLA-DR3 was protective against sensitization (OR, 0.55; CI, 0.31-0.97). Amino acid analyses of these 2 molecules indicated a biologically plausible explanation for the associations.

CONCLUSION: HLA phenotype is an important determinant of individual susceptibility to sensitization and asthma among laboratory animal workers. Similar mechanisms might apply in other animal allergies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-9
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alleles
  • Allergens
  • Animals
  • Animals, Laboratory
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • HLA-DQ beta-Chains
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases
  • Rats


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