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Allergy among veterinary medicine students in The Netherlands
  1. Sadegh Samadi1,2,
  2. Jack Spithoven1,
  3. Ali-Reza Jamshidifard2,
  4. Boyd R Berends3,
  5. Len Lipman3,
  6. Dick J J Heederik1,
  7. Inge M Wouters1
  1. 1Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Occupational Health, Arak University of Medical Sciences, Arak, Iran
  3. 3Division of Veterinary Public Health, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Inge M Wouters, Division of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80178, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands; i.wouters{at}


Background Veterinary medicine students who practice with animals are potentially exposed to many occupational agents, yet sensitisation and allergic symptoms among this group have not been studied extensively.

Objective The objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of sensitisation and allergic symptoms in veterinary medicine students in association with study specialisation over time.

Methods A questionnaire-based cross-sectional study was conducted. Blood was collected and tested for total and specific serum IgE for 16 different common and study-specific allergens using enzyme immunoassay.

Results New development of self-reported allergic symptoms to various allergens occurred in 8.7%, of which 44% was deducted against animals. Handling farm animals was strongly associated with self-reported allergies to various allergens (OR=6.9, 95% CI 1.9 to 25) and animal allergens (OR=12, 95% CI 1.4 to 103). Sensitisation to at least one allergen occurred in 33.1%. Sensitisation prevalence tended to be elevated in later years of the equine study program. In contrast to self-reported allergies, the prevalence of sensitisation to any allergen decreased with prolonged study duration for those specialising in farm animal health (years 3–5: OR=0.5, 95% CI 0.3 to 1.1; year 6: OR=0.2, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.5). This was independent of whether people were raised on a farm, which is in itself a protective factor for allergy and sensitisation.

Conclusion This study provides evidence of an elevated prevalence of allergic symptoms with increasing years of veterinary study, suggesting that contact with animals, more specifically contact to farm animals, is a risk factor for the development of symptoms.

  • Allergy
  • sensitisation
  • allergic symptoms
  • veterinary medicine students
  • respiratory
  • organic dusts

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the ethical committee of the Utrecht University (record number 06/076).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.