A rapid lateral flow immunoassay for the detection of fungal alpha-amylase at the workplace
Fungal alpha-amylase is a flour supplement which is added to improve the quality of bakery products. Various studies have shown that exposure to this enzyme is an important risk factor for the development of bakers’ allergy and this allergy is reported to be one of the most frequent causes of occupational asthma. A rapid assay was developed to monitor exposure to occupational allergens directly at the workplace. The sensitivity of the developed assay is 0.32 ng amylase mL−1 in a buffer system with the commercially available alpha-amylase preparation Fungamyl 1600S as the standard. Initial validation tests (n = 33) were performed with airborne and settled dust from an industrial bakery. The new lateral flow immunoassay detected amylase in 22 of the 26 samples regarded as positive in an enzyme immunoassay, and was negative for all seven enzyme immunoassay-negative samples, while the four lateral flow immunoassay-negative/enzyme immunoassay-positive samples all had levels below 2 ng mL−1. The sensitivity of 2 ng mL−1 of the amylase lateral flow immunoassay is sufficient for first screening purposes and, therefore, this simple and rapid assay may allow direct on-site demonstration of work-related hazards of bio-allergen exposure. This would be particularly useful in occupational hygiene practice, especially in traditional or small-scale bakeries which lack the technological skills for testing the exposure to respiratory allergens.