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Evaluation of the risk of anaphylactic reactions by wasp venom-extract challenges in children


Dr Claudia Schultze-Werninghaus, Division of Pediatric Pneumology and Immunology, University Children’s Hospital Charité, Humboldt University, Augustenburger Platz 1, D-13353 Berlin, Germany
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Diagnostic sting challenges have been shown to provide information on the risk of further anaphylactic reactions to bee stings. We present a follow-up study in wasp venom-hypersensitive children after diagnostic venom extract challenges to analyze their risk of further anaphylactic reactions. Responses were obtained from 104 patients with wasp venom hypersensitivity out of 115 former patients. Only one of the 104 patients showed more than a severe local reaction to the sting challenge irrespective of the performance of a single or sequential challenge; therefore, only one patient received venom immunotherapy. The performance of a diagnostic sting challenge with wasp venom extract in children had a high negative predictive value of 94.6% for the risk of further systemic reactions. This was shown by analysis of later field stings, since 37 children experienced further field stings and only two of these children(5.4%) developed a mild systemic reaction (urticaria) equal to or less severe than the index sting. The value of the venom extract challenge can be interpreted in two ways: either it is less sensitive than a native sting challenge since the rate of systemic reactions to the challenge was very low, or the prognosis of wasp venom hypersensitivity in children is extremely favorable. Since the latter hypothesis is supported by the low incidence of systemic field sting reactions, we postulate that venom immunotherapy is necessary only in a minority of children with wasp venom hypersensitivity with an index sting reaction of Mueller grade I or II. However, the value of venom extract challenges as a general diagnostic instrument in children with Mueller I and II reactions due to wasp venom hypersensitivity may be questioned. It may have a place as a safe procedure in demonstrating to parents and physicians the often self-limiting natural course in most of these children.