Latex Allergy

Erin M. Warshaw, MD

In This Article

Alternative Sources of Natural Rubber and Summary

There are a number of rubber-producing species other than H. brasiliensis. The rubber particles in the common North American desert shrub guayule (Parthenium argentatum), contain cis-isoprene that is virtually identical to Hevea latex and is tolerated by individuals sensitive to natural rubber latex.[49] Guayule rubber products may serve as alternatives for latex-sensitive individuals in the future. Other closely related materials that have been reported to be potentially cross-reactive with Hevea latex are gutta-percha and gutta-balata from Sapotaceae trees.[50]

Latex allergy affects thousands of people in several major risk groups. Over the past 15 years we have learned more about the prevalence and etiology of allergy to latex, but there are still many unanswered questions regarding management of this important medical and legal issue. There are few estimates of the economic loss arising from latex sensitivity, but it is likely to be substantial when considering the costs of medical testing, lost productivity, risk managers, industrial hygienists, lawyers, and workers' compensation.

Almost 50% of hospital products contain natural rubber latex; reducing these sources of sensitization and educating those at risk without causing irrational responses are ongoing goals.