European Polistes venom allergy


Dr Maurizio G. Severino
Allergologia Immunologia Clinica
Azienda Sanitaria di Firenze
Nuovo Ospedale San Giovanni di Dio
Via di Torregalli 3
50143 Florence, Italy


The American Polistes species venom mixture – that of P. annularis, P. fuscatus, P. metricus and P. exclamans– was the only commercially available mixture for diagnosis and therapy until 1996. However, these species of Polistes are not present in Europe, where P. dominulus and P. gallicus and to a lesser extent P. nimphus are widespread. The aim of this study was to assess the allergenic differences among the commercial American mix, P. dominulus and P. gallicus venom in European patients and therefore to verify if this mixture is suitable for diagnosis in these patients. We carried out skin tests, radioallergosorbent tests (RAST) and RAST inhibition in Italian patients with adverse reactions to Polistes stings. RAST inhibition results demonstrated that cross-reactivity between the American and European species is only partial and that P. dominulus and P. gallicus venoms have exclusive allergens. Skin tests and direct RAST confirmed these results and also showed that European Polistes venom is more suitable than the American mix in Italian patients. Moreover, we found a high rate of cross-reactivity between P. dominulus and P. gallicus. To conclude, P. dominulus and/or P. gallicus venoms are necessary for diagnosis and therefore in the therapy of European patients.