How much specific is the association between hymenoptera venom allergy and mastocytosis?


Giovanni Passalacqua, MD
Allergy & Respiratory Diseases
Department of Internal Medicine
Padiglione Maragliano
L.go R. Benzi 10
16132 Genoa,


Background:  The preferential association of mastocytosis with hymenoptera sting reactions is well known, but there is no data on the prevalence of clonal mast cell disorders in subjects with severe systemic reactions due to foods or drugs.

Methods:  Patients with food- or drug-induced severe systemic reactions, including anaphylaxis, and increased serum tryptase were studied for the presence of mastocytosis, and compared with a population of patients with hymenoptera allergy. The aetiological role of foods or drugs was assessed according to current recommendations. Systemic reactions were graded in severity according to the procedure described by Mueller. Serum tryptase was considered increased if the level was >11.4 ng/ml. Subjects with increased tryptase had dermatological evaluation and Bone marrow(BM) aspirate-biopsy, which included histology/cytology, flow cytometry and detection of KIT mutations.

Results:  A total of 137 subjects (57 male, mean age 42 years) were studied. Of them, 86 proved positive for drugs and 51 for foods. Overall, out of 137 patients, only nine (6.6%) had a basal tryptase >11.4 ng/ml, and only two (1.5%) were diagnosed with mastocytosis. This was clearly different from patients with hymenoptera allergy, where 13.9% had elevated tryptase and 11.1% had a clonal mast cell disorder.

Conclusion:  The association of clonal mast cell disorders with hymenoptera allergy seems to be more specific than that with food- or drug-induced systemic reactions.