The flow-cytometric determination of basophil activation induced by aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is useful for in vitro diagnosis of the NSAID hypersensitivity syndrome


Dr María L. Sanz, Department of Allergology and Clinical Immunology, University Clinic of Navarra, Apartado 4209, 31080 Pamplona, Spain. E-mail:


Background Hypersensitivity reactions to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), manifested by cutaneous symptoms and/or airway manifestations represent 20–25% of all hypersensitivity reactions to drugs. Today, it is still claimed that no in vitro diagnostic tests exist for that condition and that the only way to confirm the diagnosis is a provocation challenge.

Objective The objective of this study was to assess whether NSAIDs may provoke blood basophil activation in vitro in such patients, as detected by a flowcytometric technique.

Methods Sixty NSAID hypersensitive patients (38 with cutaneous, 20 with airway and two with cutaneous and airway symptoms) and 30 control patients (15 asthmatics) were selected. Their hypersensitivity was confirmed by documented history indicating at least two clinical episodes to two or more different NSAIDs or by positive oral provocation challenge. Isolated buffy coat leukcocytes were stimulated in vitro with aspirin, paracetamol, metamizol, diclofenac, and naproxen. The percentage of activated basophils was evaluated by an anti-CD63.

Results Aspirin showed a sensitivity of 43.3%, a specificity of 100%, a positive predictive value of 100% and a negative predictive value of 99.4%. For the other NSAIDs, the sensitivity and specificity values were: for paracetamol 11.7% and 100%, for metamizol 15% and 100%, for diclofenac 43.3% and 93.3% and for naproxen 54.8% and 74.1%. When considering the first four NSAIDs, the global sensitivity raised to 63.3% and specificity to 93.3%. If the number of tests is to be limited for practical reasons, the combination of acetylsalicylic acid and diclofenac at two concentrations yields a sensitivity of 58.3% and a specificity of 93.3%.

Conclusions Flowcytometric determinations of basophil activation following stimulation with NSAIDs show a high sensitivity (60–70%) with specificity above 90%. So this test may help avoiding some cumbersome and dangerous provocation challenges.