Asthma caused by vegetable gums

  • Carpet manufacturing
  • Cosmetics industry
  • Explosives manufacturer
  • Food industry
  • Hairdresser
  • Lithography
  • Mining
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Printer
  • Textile industry
Acacia gum, Adragante gum, Alginate, Guar gum, Gum arabic, Karaya gum, Larch gum, Psyllium, Tamarind gum.
Incidence: during certain asthma epidemics up to 50% of exposed subjects (USA 1935).
The allergen is a macromolecule which can easily be inhaled (as a powder or an aerosol).
Subjects are almost always atopic.
The mechanism is IgE-dependent.
If asthma caused by gum arabic in print workers is decreasing, respiratory problems due to vegetable gums are on the increase.
Rhinitis is more frequent and often precedes asthma. It is often associated with conjunctivitis. Cough and attacks of dyspnoea are closely linked to work, symptoms re-occur with each repeated exposure. There is a risk of an anaphylactic reaction caused by ingestion of the allergen, particularly in a hidden form e.g. in ice cream.
Diagnostic methods
Skin prick test or IDR with the antigen (commercially available in the case of gum arabic and adragante).
Immunological dosage: RAST/CAP RAST Psyllium (Ispaghule) and guar gum, special couplings (Phadia).
Bronchial provocation test (in hospital).


  1. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 1990,86:562
  2. J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 1990,85:785
  3. INRS fiche All. Resp. Prof. n°8
  4. Chest 1987,91,2,A:296
  5. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 1980,243:5432
  6. Am. Rev. Resp. Dis. 1990 (Abst.) 452
  7. Am. Rev. Resp. Dis. 1986,133:935
  8. Lancet 1952,i:755

As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.