BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES. Latex allergy, caused by sensitisation in atopic individuals, is a common occupational disease among healthcare workers who use latex gloves. It may be present in non-atopic individuals as well. The main objective of this study was to document the prevalence and disease spectrum of latex allergy at Mankweng Hospital, Limpopo Province, South Africa. The secondary objective was to determine clinical presentation of the disease.
METHODS. A cross-sectional descriptive study, with an analytical component, was conducted among healthcare workers who worked in
high-risk areas for latex sensitisation. ImmunoCAP testing was performed and followed by a skin-prick test (SPT) in those who tested
negative to the blood test.
RESULTS. Two hundred screening questionnaires were distributed to healthcare workers at the hospital. Of these 158 (79.0%) were returned,
with 59 participants meeting the inclusion criteria (experiencing symptoms due to wearing latex gloves). The mean age of the participants
was 39.6 years (standard deviation 9.8 years, range 20 - 60 years). There were more females (98.1%) than males (1.9%). Glove-related
symptoms were present in 59 subjects (37.1%), in 7 (11.9%) of whom the ImmunoCAP was positive to latex (95% confidence interval
4.2 - 22.9%). Fourteen participants were lost to follow-up before the SPT was performed. Thirty-eight of the participants with negative
ImmunoCAP tests underwent SPT. Positive SPTs were reported in 5 of these 38 workers (13.2%), indicating that the ImmunoCAP test
missed 11.1% (5/45) of latex-allergic individuals. The prevalence of latex allergy in this study was 8.3% (12/144). A denominator of 144 was
used, as there is a possibility that some of the 14 individuals lost to follow-up could have tested positive to latex sensitisation by SPT. The
symptoms experienced by latex-sensitised workers were rhinitis (100.0%), asthma (50.0%), dermatitis (25.0%), severe anaphylaxis (8.3%), abdominal pain (8.3%) and angio-oedema (8.3%).
CONCLUSION. Our findings reveal that latex allergy is a problem at our hospital. The prevalence of 8.3% is comparable to findings in other
South African centres. We recommend a latex-free protocol for high-risk areas and healthcare workers.