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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997 Dec;100(6 Pt 1):767-70.

Discontinuation of yellow jacket venom immunotherapy: follow-up of 75 patients by means of deliberate sting challenge.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Eemland Hospital, Amersfoort, The Netherlands.



Venom immunotherapy is effective in preventing systemic reactions in patients with a history of an anaphylactic reaction to Hymenoptera stings. It is uncertain how long venom immunotherapy should be continued.


We evaluated whether the duration of venom immunotherapy given to yellow jacket-sensitive patients related to the risk of an anaphylactic reaction to a later sting.


Seventy-five yellow jacket-sensitive patients (29 male and 46 female) received a median number of three in-hospital sting challenges from a live insect in 3 subsequent years after discontinuation of venom immunotherapy. An anaphylactic reaction to one or more of the sting challenges was considered a relapse. We analyzed whether patients with and patients without a relapse differed in terms of gender, age, preimmunotherapy skin test data, preimmunotherapy level of venom-specific IgE, severity of the field-sting reaction that preceded immunotherapy, severity of the reaction to the sting challenge that preceded immunotherapy, adverse reactions to immunotherapy, changes in IgE and IgG4 levels during immunotherapy, duration of immunotherapy, and presence of venom-specific IgE after cessation of therapy.


Venom immunotherapy was given for a median duration of 40 months (range, 7 to 120 months). Relapses were observed in six patients. In two of them, a rather severe anaphylactic reaction was observed after the second sting challenge. No relation was found between duration of venom immunotherapy and relapse risk. The relapse rate was higher among patients with high levels of specific IgE before and after immunotherapy. During therapy, the mean level of specific IgE decreased. This decline persisted in the 3 following years. No relapses of sting reactions were observed among patients without detectable specific IgE.


Discontinuation of venom immunotherapy appears safe for patients with pretreatment IgE antibodies if these antibodies can no longer be detected during immunotherapy. For the remaining patients, a treatment period of 3 years may suffice. After discontinuation of immunotherapy, a clinical sting challenge can be considered to estimate the patient's current grade of hypersensitivity.

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