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Allergy. 1996 Jun;51(6):372-7.

IgE antibodies to Hymenoptera venoms in the serum are common in the general population and are related to indications of atopy.

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Hautklinik am Universitätskrankenhaus Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.


Determination of Hymenoptera venom (HV)-specific serum IgE antibodies is a useful diagnostic method in patients with systemic anaphylactic reaction (SAR) to Hymenoptera stings. In a general population cohort, we determined the prevalence of SAR and HV-specific IgE antibodies and assessed parameters associated with the latter. A total of 277 voluntarily participating inhabitants of rural Bavaria (Germany) (232 adults, mean age 38.0 years; 45 children, mean age 8.4 years) were investigated for a history of atopic disease or SAR to insect stings; in 258 of these, total IgE and specific IgE antibodies to HV (Apis mellifera, Vespula vulgaris/germanica) and four common aeroallergens (birch pollen, grass pollen, house-dust mite, and cat dander) in the serum were determined. Nine (3.3%) subjects reported SAR to insect stings. In 27.1% of the sera, specific IgE antibodies to HV were found, to bee venom in 24.8%, and to wasp venom in 8.5% (P < 0.0001). Of those exhibiting HV-specific IgE, 7.1% reported SAR to insect stings. A personal history of atopic disease (hay fever, asthma, or atopic eczema) was present in 16.7%, specific IgE to common aeroallergens was found in 32.6%, and total IgE > 100 kU/l was found in 22.5%. Specific serum IgE to HV was significantly associated with male sex (female vs. male, OR = 0.47; CI 0.25-0.86), young age (children vs. adults, OR = 2.80; CI 1.25-6.28), a history of SAR to insect stings (OR = 4.16; CI 1.15-15.03), total sIgE > 100 kU/l (OR = 3.88; CI 1.98-7.60), and specific IgE antibodies to three of the four aeroallergens (grass pollen, OR = 7.24 CI 3.66-14.38; birch pollen, OR = 3.67 CI 1.54-8.81; and house-dust mite, OR = 4.61 CI 2.08-10.32). It is concluded that immunologic sensitization to HV is common in the general population and is associated with atopy-related humoral IgE hyperresponsiveness.

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