Evolution of lymphocyte transformation to wasp venom antigen during immunotherapy for wasp venom anaphylaxis


W. J. Stevens, Immunology, University of Antwerp, UIA, Universiteitsplein 1, B 2610 Antwerpen, Belgium.



Venom immunotherapy (VIT) has proven to be safe and effective in wasp venom anaphylaxis. However, there are no good parameters to indicate when to stop venom immunotherapy.


To evaluate the relationship of the lymphocyte transformation test (LTT) to history and specific IgE determination, and to address the time course of lymphocyte transformation responses to wasp (Vespula) venom during VIT and the possible utility of LTT to determine the duration of therapy.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of 18 individuals with a history of wasp sting anaphylaxis and a positive serum-venom-specific IgE, were stimulated with wasp venom before immunotherapy, at the end of a 5-day semi-rush immunotherapy and at 24 months during venom immunotherapy. Results, expressed as stimulation index (SI), were compared with the SI in seven asymptomatic stung controls.


In controls the median (minimum–maximum) of the SI were 2.39 (0.52–3.39) before therapy and 2.39 (1.12–6.02) when repeated after 24 months. For patients the median (minimum–maximum) of the SI were 10.13 (1.19–44.88) before immunotherapy (d0), 2.73 (0.67–12.03) at the end of the build-up immunotherapy (d5) and 4.21 (0.88-14.66) at the end of 24 months of maintenance therapy (m24). The proliferation responses in vespid-allergic patients were significantly higher than in stung controls (P = 0.006) but only13/18 patients showed a positive LTT result before the start of immunotherapy (sensitivity of the LTT 72%). When the LTT was repeated after a 5 day build-up hyposensitization course the SI significantly dropped as compared to the pre-treatment levels (P = 0.002). The SI of the LTT was negative in eight out of 18 patients at 24 months and the median values were significantly lower than before therapy (P = 0.03).


Although, in the absence of sting challenge data it is not possible to draw conclusions about the predictive value of the LTT, our data may suggest that abolition of the LTT during VIT might indicate clinical insensitivity. Further studies, comparing the results of sting challenges, with the results of lymphocyte transformation will be necessary in order to evaluate the role of LTT in stopping immunotherapy.