Background In diagnosis of type I allergy recombinant allergens have potential advantages over conventional allergenic extracts, both regarding specificity and reproducibility.
Objectives We therefore decided to study honey bee venom (BV) and its major allergen phospholipase A2 (PLA) in native and recombinant form for diagnosis of bee sting allergy.
Method We investigated 85 patients with a history of a recent systemic allergic bee sting reaction and positive intracutaneous skin test to BV, and 21 controls with no history of allergic bee sting reaction and negative skin test to BV. Intracutaneous skin tests and determination of specific IgE by ImmunoCAPR to BV, native PLA (nPLA) and recomhinant PLA (rPLA) were done in all patients and controls.
Results In skin testing 84 (99%) of the 85 patients reacted to nPLA and 81 (95%) to rPLA, while none of the 21 controls was positive with nPLA or rPLA. Specific serum IgE to BV could be detected in 82 of the patients (96%), to nPLA in 73 (86%) and to rPLA in 66 (78%). Four (19%) of the controls had a positive CAP to BV, one (4.8%) to nPLA and none to rPLA. Analysis of discordant results in CAP showed, that most patients with specific IgE to BV, but not to nPLA and rPLA, had positive skin tests to both PLA preparations and low levels of BV specific IgE. Patients with specific IgE to nPLA but not to rPLA were usually sensitized to minor allergens of BV which contaminated the commercial nPLA.
Conclusions PLA is the major allergen in BV. While diagnostic tests with BV are more sensitive, the specificity of tests with PLA, especially rPLA is clearly increased as compared with BV.
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