Prevalence and clinical relevance of specific immunoglobulin E to pollen caused by sting- induced specific immunoglobulin E to cross-reacting carbohydrate determinants in Hymenoptera venoms


A.-M. Kochuyt, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Background Hymenoptera stings can induce specific IgE (sIgE) to carbohydrate determinants (CD) on venom glycoproteins that cross-react with CD in pollen. sIgE to such cross-reacting CD (CCD) are believed to have little or no biological activity and thus may cause misdiagnosis of pollen sensitization after a sting.

Objective To determine the prevalence of multiple false positive CAP results to pollen because of sting induced anti-CCD sIgE in Hymenoptera venom (HV) allergic patients and to investigate the association of such anti-CCD sIgE with features of ‘atopy’.

Methods Skin prick tests (SPT) and CAP tests with grass, tree and weed pollen and with house dust mite (HDM) were carried out prospectively in 259 HV allergic patients and CAP tests with honeybee (HBV) and yellow jacket (YJV) venom were performed. Patients with negative pollen SPT associated with positive CAP tests to all three pollen groups were operationally defined as ‘CCD positive’. We investigated in selected ‘CCD positive’ patients the presence of anti-CCD sIgE by CAP tests with bromelain and studied the identity of CD in HVs and pollen by mutual sIgE inhibition tests with CD from proteinase treated HBV (HBV-CD) and Lolium perenne (Lol-CD) extracts.

Results sIgE to all three pollen groups without positive SPT or history was found in 16% of 259 patients. The presence of anti-CCD sIgE was substantiated by positive CAP tests with bromelain in 14/14 and by inhibition of all pollen CAP tests with HBV-CD in 8/9 and with Lol-CD in 2/2 patients. Double venom (DV) positive CAP tests were present in 93% of ‘CCD positive’ patients and were in some associated with DV skin test positivity and allergy. The prevalence of ‘CCD positivity’ was significantly higher among HBV (23%) than among YJV (11%) allergic patients, but was also unexpectedly high among those with DV allergy (47%). ‘CCD positive’ patients were younger, had a higher total IgE and more sIgE to HDM than ‘CCD negative’ patients.

Conclusion We have shown that the risk in HV allergic patients for misdiagnosis of multivalent pollen sensitization is 16%, and we have confirmed that sting induced anti-pollen sIgE are directed to similar CD in venoms and pollen. We found evidence that the recognition of CCD might be related to the ‘atopic’ trait. Importantly, a positive bromelain CAP test does not exclude clinical reactivity to both venoms in ‘CCD positive’ HV allergic patients.