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Epidemiology of insect venom sensitivity in children and its correlation to clinical and atopic features


Novembre Allergy and Clinical Immunology Unit, Department of Paediatrics, A. Meyer Hospital, Via Luca Giordano 13, Florence, Italy.


The aim of this study was to obtain more accurate figures of the prevalence of cutaneous sensitivity to Hymenoptera venoms (HV) and its correlation with other parameters of atopy in a population of primary schoolchildren. Parents filled out a structured questionnaire and children were tested with a panel of inhalant and food allergens as well as standardized freeze-dried extracts of HV. Among the 1175 children who completed the study there was a personal history of rhinoconjunctivitis in 242 (20.8%) and a current wheezing in 114 (9.78%). Two-hundred twenty-eight (19.40%) children had a history of Hymenoptera sting (HS) reactions (224 or 19.06% of local reactions and 4 or 0.34% of local and systemic reactions). Positive skin-prick tests (SPT) to any given HV extract were present in 43 children (3.66%). Most subjects had positive SPT to honey bee venom (35/1175; 2.98%); 17/1175 (1.45%) had positive SPT to wasp and only 12 subjects (1.02%) had positive SPT to polistes venom. There was a correlation between a positive SPT to HV and the history of clinical reactions to HS (P = 0.0026). Positive SPT to at least one of the inhalant and food allergens tested were found in 353 subjects (30.04%). Factors such as age, sex, reactions to HV, positive SPT to mite, cat dander, grass, Alternaria, Parietaria, cow's milk, egg white and wheat were significantly associated with a positive SPT to HV using a univariate regression analysis. Only age, reactions to HV, a positive SPT to grass, Parietaria, cow's milk, and egg white were significantly associated with a positive SPT to HV using a multiple regression analysis. In this study, the frequency of immunological sensitization to HV in a population of unselected children is not so high as in adults. There is an association between the presence of positive SPT to HV and an atopy linked humoral IgE response. The presence of a significant and independent association between positive SPT to food of animal origin and positive SPT to HV is surprising and needs further study.