• flow cytometry;
  • CD63;
  • immunotherapy;
  • hymenoptera venom



Correct identification of the culprit venom is a prerequisite for specific venom immunotherapy (VIT). Despite the efficacy of VIT, issues as how to monitor treatment and when to discontinue maintenance therapy remain to be established.


To evaluate diagnostic performances of the basophil activation test (BAT) in wasp venom allergy, 80 patients with a definite history of wasp venom anaphylaxis (systemic reactors) and 14 wasp-stung asymptomatic controls (stung controls) were enrolled. Venom-induced basophil activation was analyzed flow cytometrically by double-labeling with anti-IgE and anti-CD63. Results were compared to wasp IgE levels and results of a venom skin test (VST). To establish whether the BAT constitutes a candidate marker to monitor VIT, the BAT was repeated in 22 patients on the 5th day of a build-up course and after 6 months of maintenance VIT. Whether the BAT could contribute in the decision of discontinuing VIT was assessed in a cross-sectional analysis in 30 patients receiving treatment for 3 years.


Comparison between systemic reactors and stung controls revealed a sensitivity of 86.4% and specificity of 100% for venom IgE, and sensitivity of 81.8% for VST, respectively. In contrast to stung controls, patients demonstrated dose-dependent venom-induced basophil activation. The BAT attained a sensitivity of 83.8% and specificity of 100%. At the end of the build-up course, no effect of VIT on the BAT was demonstrable. When the BAT was repeated after 6 months of treatment, submaximal stimulation of the cells demonstrated a significant decreased CD63 expression (P < 0.04). Patients having VIT for 3 years also demonstrated significantly lower venom-induced CD63 expression (P < 0.001). After 3 years, 60% of the patients had a negative BAT for submaximal stimulation of the cells whereas only 17.9% of the patients had negativation of wasp IgE.


The BAT is a reliable instrument for the diagnosis of wasp venom anaphylaxis and might constitute an instrument to monitor wasp VIT. © 2006 International Society for Analytical Cytology