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Allergy Asthma Proc. 2002 Jul-Aug;23(4):253-8.

Hypersensitivity to common tree pollens in New York City patients.

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Department of Medicine, Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers-Saint Vincent's Hospital, Manhattan, 153 West 11th Street, New York, NY 10011, USA.


Testing for tree pollen hypersensitivity typically requires the use of several tree pollens. Identifying patterns of cross-sensitivity to tree pollens could reduce the number of trees used for testing. The goal of this study was to relate reported tree pollen levels to hypersensitivity patterns. Three hundred seventy-one allergy patients were tested serologically for hypersensitivity toward prevalent tree pollens in the surrounding New York area over the years 1993-2000. Specific tree pollens that were examined included oak (Quercus alba), birch (Betula verrucosa), beech (Fagus grandifolia), poplar (Populus deltoides), maple (Acer negundo), ash (Fraxinus americana), hickory (Carya pecan), and elm (Ulmus americana). Statistical analysis of the levels of hypersensitivity was performed to identify correlations and grouping factors. Pollen levels, obtained from published annual pollen and spore reports, were characterized and related to the prevalence of hypersensitivity for the various trees. The highest prevalence of hypersensitivity (score > or = class 1) was for oak (34.3%), birch (32.9%), and maple (32.8%) tree pollens. Lower prevalences were observed for beech (29.6%), hickory (27.1%), ash (26%), elm (24.6%), and poplar (20.6%) trees. Significant correlations were observed between oak, birch, and beech radioallergosorbent test scores. Factor analysis identified two independent pollen groups with oak, birch, and beech consisting of one group and the other five tree pollens constituting the other group. Peak pollen counts clearly were highest for oak, birch, and maple trees. The peak pollen counts corresponded roughly to seropositivity prevalences for the tree pollens. When elm, poplar, and beech test scores were not used to identify patients who were allergic to tree pollens, only 1 of 106 patients with any positive tree radioallergosorbent test score was missed. It is concluded that in the New York City area, hypersensitivity to tree pollens most often is manifested with allergy to oak, birch, and maple tree pollens. Identifying beech, poplar, and elm hypersensitivity adds little toward identifying patients who are allergic to tree pollens. This may relate in part to cross-reactive epitopes. These data suggest that these three trees can be eliminated from testing with only a < 1% loss of sensitivity.

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