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Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2000 Nov;123(3):183-95.

Evolution in the understanding of cross-reactivities of respiratory allergens: the role of recombinant allergens.

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Service de Pneumologie, INSERM U425, Hôpital Lyautey, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France.


The aim of this review is to show the impact of the use of purified and recombinant allergens to discriminate between co- and cross-sensitization to respiratory allergens. The author describes the evolution of diagnostic tests over the last decades; the tests initially allowed the detection of simultaneously positive cutaneous tests and/or simultaneous positivity of specific IgE to different allergen extracts, but they did not differentiate cross-sensitization from co-sensitization. RAST inhibition studies with crude extracts then established cross-reactivity, but did not identify the cross-reactive allergens involved. Later, immunoblot and CRIE inhibition were able to detect multiple cross-reactive allergens and to assess their physicochemical properties. But it is only since purified and recombinant allergens have been used in the different investigations that identification of cross-reactive allergens has been made possible at a molecular level. This historical approach is illustrated by examples selected from some of the main respiratory allergen sources: tree pollen, grass pollen, weed pollen, acarids, cockroaches and mammalians. For each of these allergen sources, the author gives an updated presentation of major and minor cross-reactive allergen molecules and refers to the last decade's major publications concerning immunochemical investigations carried out in the field of cross-reactive respiratory allergens. Emphasis is placed on the clinical applications for allergic patients: improvement in the accuracy of the diagnosis of sensitization, new concepts of immunotherapy based on genetically engineered hypoallergenic variants of cross-reactive allergens used alone or in combination, evaluation of allergen load with environmental tests using monoclonal antibodies against cross-reactive allergens.

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