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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1988 Jan;81(1):77-82.

A study of the prevalence and clinical significance of venom-specific IgE.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Mayo Medical School, Rochester, Minn 55905.


The prevalence of unrecognized Hymenoptera-venom sensitization, assessed by venom skin tests (VSTs) in adults with no history of adverse reactions to sting, has been as high as 12% in previous epidemiologic studies. To assess further the clinical importance of positive VSTs in such individuals, we skin tested 33 subjects stung in the field during the preceding 12 months without reaction, and 33 persons who denied being stung in the preceding 3 years. Among the recently stung group, 12/33 had at least one positive VST (greater than or equal to 2+) at 1.0 microgram/ml, whereas 5/33 had positive VST at 0.1 microgram/ml. In contrast, only 2/33 nonstung subjects had positive VST at 1.0 microgram/ml, and none were positive at 0.1 microgram/ml. To estimate, prospectively, the sensitization rate after insect stings, we studied a third group of 11 nonsensitive patients with negative skin tests to Hymenoptera. After a deliberate in-hospital honeybee sting, only 1/11 developed a persistently positive honeybee VST. From among the three groups, we then performed nine sting challenges in eight patients with positive VSTs, and all stings were tolerated without significant reaction. We also measured IgE antibodies to Hymenoptera venoms in random blood bank donors. During April to May, 2/216 sera contained elevated venom-specific IgE antibodies, whereas 14/201 sera collected from October to November contained elevated venom-specific IgE antibodies. We conclude that a small but appreciable portion of the population has venom-specific IgE antibodies and that the prevalence is seasonably variable. Our data indicate that persons recently stung without significant reaction contribute to this group but that only a small portion of this group is at risk for a systemic reaction with a future sting.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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