Background Tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) are consumed world-wide. The prevalence of sensitization to tomatoes remains unknown.
Objective To determine the prevalence of skin test reactivity to tomato and to describe the characteristics of tomato-sensitized subjects.
Methods Individuals attending for the first time during the period of the study to six Allergy centres, located along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, reporting respiratory and/or cutaneous symptoms, were included. All patients were skin prick tested with a battery of inhalant allergens and with peel and pulp of Canary tomato extracts.
Results The study included 1734 individuals (757 males, 977 females; 31.9±17.8 years old). The prevalence of sensitization to tomato was 6.52% (113 patients; 65 males, 48 females; 29.5±13 years old). The peel extract was positive in 110 patients and the pulp extract in 47 patients; three patients were positive exclusively to pulp. Only 1.8% of individuals reported symptoms with tomato; 44% of them had skin test negative to both extracts. Among tomato-sensitized subjects, 16% reported symptoms with tomato, 97% were sensitized to inhalant aeroallergens, including 84% to pollens (mainly Artemisia vulgaris and Platanus hybrida), with differences between Northern and Southern centres.
Conclusions The prevalence found of skin test sensitivity to tomato is high. Peel extracts detected most of the sensitized subjects. Most of the sensitized subjects were asymptomatic and some patients reported symptoms without skin test sensitivity. Positive subjects were very frequently sensitized to pollens, suggesting allergen cross-reactivity. Regional differences may exist, possibly related to the pattern of sensitization to cross-reacting pollens.