The New Guayule Latex Glove
5/15/2008 - Written by the Medical Exam Glove team
What do you call an exam glove with all the physical properties of latex without causing allergic reactions to people? Arguably, this can be called the perfect glove. Recently, the use of latex gloves have declined that has been primarily attributed to reports of clinicians and patients developing sensitivity to latex. Yulex Corporation may have paved the way for the return of latex.
On April 23, 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared for market Yulex Corporation’s new natural latex from the guayule plant. Guayule latex is unique in that this material does not cause reaction to people who are allergic to traditional latex which is made from a milky sap.
Today, many latex products use the milky sap from the rubber tree Hevea braziliensis. This sap is known to contain proteins that cause the development and reactions of latex allergies. Over the past decade, the use of latex products have diminished as the medical community warned of high risk symptoms to prolonged contact of the protein which include skin irritation and severe respiratory symptoms. The beauty of Yulex’s new guayule latex is that the product does not contain the harmful protein.
Rather than using the milky sap from the Hevea braziliensis tree, Yulex’s latex comes from the guayule plant which is native to the United States (Arizona and southwest US region). This could be very good news to healthcare professionals because exam gloves may be reverted back to latex.
Many hospitals have migrated to synthetic alternatives like nitrile and vinyl to prevent latex allergies. Unfortunately, synthetic materials are inferior to latex when looking at the comfort, feel, and tactile sensitivity of each material. There is no question that healthcare professionals would prefer to use latex exam gloves if they can be guaranteed they will not develop a sensitivity or allergic reaction to the proteins.
Although Yulex’s latex is great news for the medical community, it is still too premature to claim that this product is allergy-proof. The FDA has conducted numerous tests and gave Yulex the green light, but long-term tests are still lacking. For this reason, products containing guayule latex material will still be required to label their products as containing latex material and the possible risks associated with it.
So what does this mean for the medical community? From our point of view, the primary thing missing is a long-term clinical study of Yulex’s guayule latex on the effects of whether or not this material causes latex sensitivity. If Yulex can provide this, manufacturers may adapt to the use of this resource. Secondly, how much will the Yulex latex material cost in comparison to traditional latex? Changing exam gloves for healthcare facilities is no simple matter and although guayule latex material looks good on paper, we will wait and see how things turn out.
Schultz, D. FDA clears glove made from new type of latex. Food and Drug Administration. www.fda.gov.
Federal Register: Natural Rubber-Containing Medical Devices; User Labeling. Food and Drug Administration. www.fda.gov.
Guayule FAQ. Yulex Cropscience. www.yulex.com.