Background Alcohol consumption is associated with increased serum IgE of unknown specificity.
Objective To investigate the prevalence of specific IgE to cross-reactive carbohydrate determinants (CCDs) in adults, and its relation to alcohol consumption.
Methods Population-based survey of 457 adults (218 abstainers, 195 light-to-moderate drinkers, 44 heavy drinkers). Specific IgE determinations included a CCD (MUXF3, the N-glycan of bromelain), pollens (Lolium perenne and Olea europaea), Hymenoptera venoms (Apis mellifera and Vespula spp.), and a mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus). We replicated these studies in an additional sample of alcoholics (n=138). Inhibition assays were performed in selected cases.
Results In the general population, 5.6% of individuals (95% confidence interval 3.5–7.6%) showed positive (0.35 kU/L) CCD-specific IgE. The levels of CCD-specific IgE were particularly high in heavy drinkers, who also showed a high prevalence of positive IgE to pollens and Hymenoptera venoms, doubling (at least) the prevalence found in alcohol abstainers and light-to-moderate drinkers. The presence of IgE to pollens and Hymenoptera venoms was closely correlated with the presence of CCD-specific IgE. These features were confirmed in the additional sample of alcoholics. Inhibition studies indicated a role of CCD interference in IgE positivity to pollen and Hymenoptera allergens in alcoholics.
Conclusions CCD-specific IgE is prevalent in heavy drinkers, and is associated with positive IgE to pollens and Hymenoptera venoms. Specific IgE results should be interpreted with caution in heavy drinkers.