Allergens in biological control agents used in greenhouse work (TORJU)

A significant proportion of greenhouse workers become sensitised, i.e. allergic, to biological control agents. This sensitisation can lead to the development of allergic rhinitis, asthma or rash. There are no good methods available for identifying the sensitisation of workers or work environments that lead to exposure. In this project, we will identify the allergens, i.e. sensitising proteins, in biological control agents that cause symptoms in greenhouse workers. We will also develop methods for identifying sensitised patients and for measuring allergens in the indoor air of greenhouses.




The objective of the project is to identify and characterise allergens in biological control agents. With the help of sera collected from allergic greenhouse workers, we will

  • identify IgE-binding proteins
  • isolate the most likely allergens, and
  • study their properties and sequence and similar proteins.

With the help of IgE antibodies in patient sera, we will examine cross-reactivity with other known allergens found in invertebrates.

We will aim to develop methods for

  • identifying sensitised greenhouse workers based on blood samples, and
  • determining biological control agent allergen concentrations in the indoor air of workplaces.

As part of the project, we will also provide instructions for workplaces and occupational health care on how to identify and prevent the described negative impacts of allergens.

Data and methods

This project will make use of blood samples collected from greenhouse workers in the previous “Biological control in greenhouses” project. The project will involve examining the binding of biological control agent allergens in the samples. 

In addition to this, samples of inhalable dust will be collected from five greenhouses for the purpose of measuring their allergen concentrations.

Results and impact

Identifying and characterising the allergens present in biological control agents will provide information on the proteins found in greenhouses causing sensitisation and allergies, establishing the basis for their measurement and utilisation.  

Identifying the proteins (allergens) that cross-react with these allergens will help us understand the causes of allergy symptoms and screen sensitised and allergic workers.

The method for measuring allergen concentrations in the air will help evaluate the air quality of greenhouses in terms of allergens, which will enable the development of prevention measures.

For more information about the project, please contact

Henkilökuva Hille Suojalehto

Hille Suojalehto

hille.suojalehto [at]
+358 30 474 2545


Docent Piia Karisola, University of Helsinki


The Finnish Work Environment Fund

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