Discrimination Between Atopic, Allergic, and Asthmatic Volunteers for Human Exposure Studies on Sensory Irritation

  • V. van KampenEmail author
  • F. Hoffmeyer
  • C. Monsé
  • M. Raulf
  • T. Brüning
  • J. Bünger
  • K. Sucker
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1279)


Atopic, allergic, and especially asthmatic subjects might be particularly susceptible to sensory irritation induced by airborne chemicals compared to healthy individuals. Therefore, a good characterization of subjects is essential in inhalation exposure studies on sensory irritants. A total of 105 volunteers, 87% of whom reported to be non-allergic, participated in a medical examination that included skin prick test (SPT), measurements of total IgE, specific IgE (sIgE) to an ubiquitous allergen mix (sx1), and fractionated exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), as well as pulmonary function and methacholine test. The median value of sIgE to sx1 was 0.20 kU/L (0.07–91.3 kU/L) and correlated significantly with total IgE (28.8 kU/L (2–756 kU/L)) and FeNO (14 ppb (5–100 ppb)). Forty-three subjects (41%) had sIgE to sx1 ≥ 0.35 kU/L and were classified as atopic. Thirty-five subjects, all also sx1-positive, were positive in SPT. Obstruction, small airway disease, and/or bronchial hyperreactivity were diagnosed in 18 subjects. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) were performed to check whether signs of sensitization are useful to discriminate subjects with and without airway diseases. However, sx1, total IgE, FeNO, and SPT reached only low areas under the curve (AUC: 0.57–0.66). Although predominantly young and, according to their own statements, mostly non-allergic subjects participated in the study, almost half of them were atopic, and 10% had airway disease or bronchial hyperreactivity. This indicates that the validity of self-reported data might be inaccurate. In summary, diversified investigations of the allergy-related health status appear necessary for a thorough characterization of subjects for exposure studies on sensory irritants.


Allergy Asthma Atopy IgE Exhale nitric oxide Inhalation exposure Sensory irritation Volunteers 



We thank the volunteers for their participation and all the involved technical assistants from our institute for their excellent assistance. We gratefully acknowledge Anja Deckert for support in recruitment.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest in relation to this article.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The recruitment procedure and the exposure studies were approved by the Ethic Committee of the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany.

Informed Consent

All participants provided written informed consent and received financial compensation for participation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. van Kampen
    • 1
    Email author
  • F. Hoffmeyer
    • 1
  • C. Monsé
    • 1
  • M. Raulf
    • 1
  • T. Brüning
    • 1
  • J. Bünger
    • 1
  • K. Sucker
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine of the German Social Accident InsuranceInstitute of the Ruhr University (IPA)BochumGermany

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