Occupational trichloroethylene (TCE) exposure can cause hypersensitivity syndrome (TCE-HS). The human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-B*13:01 is reportedly an important allele involved in TCE-HS onset. However, the threshold exposure level causing TCE-HS in relation to HLA-B*13:01 remains unknown. We conducted a case-control study comprising 37 TCE-HS patients and 97 age- and sex-matched TCE-tolerant controls from the Han Chinese population. Urine and blood of patients were collected on the first day of hospitalization, and those of controls were collected at the end of their shifts. Urinary trichloroacetic acid (TCA) was measured as an exposure marker, and end-of-shift levels in the patients were estimated using the biological half-life of 83.7 h. HLA-B genotype was identified using DNA from blood. Crude odds ratios (ORs) for TCE-HS in the groups with urinary TCA concentration >15 mg/L to ≤50 mg/L and of >50 mg/L were 21.9 [95% confidence interval (CI) 4.2–114.1] and 27.6 (6.1–125.8), respectively, when the group with urinary TCA ≤15 mg/L was used as a reference. The frequency of HLA-B*13:01, the most common allele in the patients, was 62.2% (23/37), which was significantly higher than 17.5% (17/97) in the TCE-tolerant controls, with a crude OR of 8.4 (3.1–22.6). The mutually-adjusted ORs for urinary TCA >15 to ≤50 mg/L, >50 mg/L, and for HLA-B*13:01 were 33.4 (4.1–270.8), 34.0 (5.3–217.1), and 11.0 (2.4–50.7), respectively. In conclusion, reduction of TCE exposure to ≤15 mg/L is required for TCE-HS prevention because urinary TCA concentration >15 mg/L showed increased risk of TCE-HS, regardless of whether the patients had the HLA-B*13:01 allele.
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