Introduction Occupational contact dermatitis (OCD) is one of the most frequent occupational diseases worldwide and very common among metal workers. The burden of disease is high due to its often chronic course and a high risk of work absenteeism and unemployment. The prerequisite for the development of OCD is work-related exposure to irritants and/or allergens. However, endogenous factors may increase the individual susceptibility and interfere with preventive interventions.
Methods A prospective controlled intervention study has been initiated in metal apprentices with annual follow-up assessments over three years. The apprentices in the intervention cohort received specific health education on prevention of OCD at the beginning of their training. Saliva and stratum corneum samples were taken for genotyping and analysis of phenotypic biomarkers, including assessment of epidermal levels of natural moisturising factor and cytokines. Questionnaires will be used to investigate the exposure to skin hazards, protective behaviour and knowledge on prevention of OCD. The skin condition of the hands will be assessed by regular clinical examinations and questionnaires. In addition, the same genetic and phenotypic biomarkers will be analysed in a cohort of metal workers affected by OCD. The primary objective is to evaluate if health education is effective in prevention of OCD in metal apprentices. Moreover, the value of different biomarkers to identify individuals at risk for OCD will be assessed.
Results The design of the study and its first results will be presented at the meeting.
Discussion Health education has been shown to be an important key in prevention of OCD. However, intervention studies are necessary to evaluate and improve preventive programmes based on health education. Biomarkers may help to identify individuals at risk and to develop targeted strategies to reduce the burden of OCD.