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In vitro allergy diagnosis: should we follow the flow?


Prof. Dr Wim J. Stevens, Laboratorium Immunologie Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Antwerpen, Belgium.


During the last 5 years, an increasing number of studies have demonstrated that flow cytometric quantification of in vitro basophil activation can be a quite performant and reliable tool to measure IgE-dependent allergen-specific responses in allergic patients. So far, most assays have used CD63 as a basophil activation marker and native allergen extracts for stimulation. However, other basophil markers and recombinant allergens have recently been introduced. The technique has been applied for the diagnosis of allergy to pollen, house dust mite, food, natural rubber latex, hymenoptera venom and drugs. In addition, the technique has proven to be useful in non-IgE-mediated reactions such as hypersensitivity to drugs as well as detection of auto-antibodies in chronic urticaria. This review will focus on some specific issues: (1) principles of flow cytometric analysis of in vitro-activated basophils, (2) general technical aspects of the technique (including passive sensitization), (3) clinical applications and (4) recommendations for further development and evaluation of the technique.