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Keywords:

  • autoantibodies;
  • autologous serum skin test;
  • chronic urticaria;
  • serum induced histamine release

Background:  Endogenous histamine-releasing factors (HRFs) are involved in 30–60% of patients with chronic urticaria (CU). Evidence for their existence comes from in vivo studies of autoreactivity with the autologous serum skin test (ASST), in vitro immunoassays demonstrating autoantibodies against the immunoglobulin E (IgE) or the high affinity IgE receptor (FcɛRI) and serum-induced histamine release (HR) from basophils and mast cells. We have examined the correlation between the ASST and a new basophil histamine-releasing assay (the HR-Urtikaria test) in a group of well-characterized CU patients and subsequently determined the frequency of HR-Urticaria-positive sera from a larger population of CU patients.

Subjects:  Group 1 consisted of 28 patients with CU (16 were ASST-positive) 20 patients with atopic dermatitis, 24 patients with allergy to birch and nine healthy controls. Group 2 consisted of 873 unselected CU patients.

Methods:  White blood cells containing 1–2% basophils from a healthy nonatopic donor were incubated with patients sera in the presence of interleukin (IL)-3. Histamine was measured by the glass fibre method.

Results:  Using the ASST as the true outcome, the HR-Urticaria test showed a sensitivity and specificity of 75% in group 1 using a cut-off value for HR of >16.5%. None of the controls was positive in the HR-Urticaria test. In group 2, we found no difference in the frequency of positives between male (34.6%, n = 254) and female adults (35.1%, n = 576) but twice as many females as males were tested.

Conclusions:  Our studies have shown that the HR-Urticaria test has a good sensitivity and specificity for endogenous HRFs demonstrated by the ASST in patients with CU and that about one-third of unselected patients with CU have a positive result.