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Keywords:

  • bee venom allergy;
  • histamine;
  • IgE antibody;
  • IgG antibody;
  • skin prick testing;
  • sting challenge

In this study, deliberate sting challenge was investigated as a method for estimating the severity of anaphylactic reactions in bee venom-sensitized subjects. Twenty-one patients with previous anaphylactic reactions to field bee sting were subjected to a deliberate sting challenge (n = 32). To document anaphylactic reactions, plasma histamine levels were measured before, and then 1 and 2 min after, bee sting challenge. Eleven patients were re-challenged after 3–5 weeks. On 18 occasions, sting challenges caused no systemic reactions, in seven cases reactions were mild, in five moderate and in two severe. In all children showing systemic reactions, significant increases of plasma histamine were measured after 2 min. The results correlated significantly with clinical scores but not with skin prick test or with specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies against bee venom. In patients developing local reactions only, no increase of plasma histamine was detected. The relative amount of released histamine correlated significantly with the severity of clinical symptoms. Significant histamine release occured during the first 2 min after sting challenge in children with subsequent systemic reactions and the severity of these subsequent anaphylactic reactions correlated with plasma histamine concentrations. The measurement of plasma histamine levels in the first minutes after challenge test may therefore be used as an objective marker of a potential systemic reaction.