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J Clin Invest. 1993 Sep;92(3):1374-80.

Presence of IgE antibodies to staphylococcal exotoxins on the skin of patients with atopic dermatitis. Evidence for a new group of allergens.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Denver, Colorado 80206.


In the current study, we investigated whether Staphylococcus aureus grown from affected skin of atopic dermatitis (AD) patients secreted identifiable toxins that could act as allergens to induce IgE-mediated basophil histamine release. The secreted toxins of S. aureus grown from AD patients were identified by ELISA using antibodies specific for staphylococcal enterotoxin (SE) exfoliative toxin (ET), or toxic shock syndrome toxin (TSST-1). S. aureus isolates from 24 of 42 AD patients secreted identifiable toxins with SEA, SEB, and TSST accounting for 92% of the isolates. 32 of 56 AD sera (57%) tested contained significant levels of IgE primarily to SEA, SEB, and/or TSST. In contrast, although SEA, SEB, or TSST secreting S. aureus could be recovered from the skin of psoriasis patients, their sera did not contain IgE antitoxins. Freshly isolated basophils from 10 AD patients released 5-59% of total histamine in response to SEA, SEB, or TSST-1 but only with toxins to which patients had specific IgE. Basophils from eight other AD patients and six normal controls who had no IgE antitoxin failed to demonstrate toxin-induced basophil histamine release. Stripped basophils sensitized with three AD sera containing IgE to toxin released 15-41% of total basophil histamine only when exposed to the relevant toxin, but not to other toxins. Sensitization of basophils with AD sera lacking IgE antitoxin did not result in release of histamine to any of the toxins tested. These data indicate that a subset of patients with AD mount an IgE response to SEs that can be grown from their skin. These toxins may exacerbate AD by activating mast cells, basophils, and/or other Fc epsilon-receptor bearing cells armed with the relevant IgE antitoxin.

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