Selection of Hymenoptera venoms for immunotherapy on the basis of patient's IgE antibody cross-reactivity

Robert G. Hamilton, Jack A. Wisenauer, David B.K. Golden, Martin D. Valentine, N. Franklin Adkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Background: Positive skin test results to multiple venoms in patients with Hymenoptera venom allergy may result from IgE antibody cross-reactivity among venom proteins. To avoid treatment with unnecessary and costly venoms, we have developed a venom RAST inhibition test that identifies individuals in whom a positive venom IgE RAST result is due to cross-reactive venom-specific IgE antibody. Methods: Serum samples (n = 412) were collected over 5 years from patients with clinically characterized Hymenoptera venom allergy who had positive skin test results to more than one venom. Venom allergosorbent was added to serum containing IgE antivenin and buffer or 100 μg of homologous or heterologous venom. Bound IgE was detected with radiolabeled anti-human IgE. Intraassay variation less than 10% coefficient of variation and homologous venom inhibition greater than 80% were required for acceptance of data. A "cross-reactivity index" (CRI) was computed as a ratio of percent inhibition produced by heterologous versus homologous venom. Results: Of the 412 sera-venom combinations analyzed, 41 (10%) were excluded because of incomplete homologous venom inhibition. Of the 371 remaining sera, 82% (n = 305) were studied for IgE anti-Polistes wasp venom (PWV) cross-reactivity with yellow jacket venom (YJV) and the other 66 for other venom specificity cross-inhibitions. Of the serum samples tested, 36.4% (111 of 305) contained IgE anti-PWV venom of which the binding to solid-phase PWV was inhibited with soluble YJV to a level that produced CRIs greater than 95%. We believe that this constitutes complete inhibition and demonstrates exclusively YJV cross-reactive antibody in these samples. The remaining 63.6% had CRIs from 0% to 95%, indicating IgE specific for a spectrum of unique and cross-reactive PWV allergens. Only 4.3% (13 of 305) had CRIs less than 5%, which is consistent with IgE restricted to PWV unique allergens. The degree of the IgE anti-PWV inhibition to solid-phase PWV by YJV was independent of the IgE anti-PWV level. Conclusions: This study shows that one third of patients with Hymenoptera venom allergy evaluated with positive YJV- and PWV-reactive IgE in the skin and/or serum were identified as candidates for exclusion of PWV from their immunotherapy regimen because their IgE anti-PWV was more than 95% cross-inhibitable with YJV. Cost analysis of the venom RAST inhibition test and a conventional 5-year Hymenoptera venom immunotherapy program indicates that this serologic evaluation is cost-effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-659
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of allergy and clinical immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1993


  • Hymenoptera venom
  • RAST inhibition
  • cross-reactivity
  • human IgE antibody
  • venom immunotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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