Background: Patients with birch and grass allergy often suffer from oral allergy symptoms when ingesting cross-reacting fresh fruits and vegetables. However, fruit and vegetable allergen extracts are often readily degradable or contain clinically irrelevant cross-reacting epitopes, resulting in diagnostic discrepancies when fruit and vegetable allergic reactions are evaluated. The risk of using nonstandardized fresh food extracts for skin testing may also be of concern. The objective was to compare and evaluate the clinical utility of selected recombinant grass and birch cross-reacting food allergens with fresh and commercial melon, hazelnut, and apple extracts.
Methods: Thirty-six grass- and or birch-allergic patients and 17 control subjects consented to participate in the study. All subjects were skin prick tested and had basophil histamine-release tests done with fresh fruits and various extracts of hazelnut, apple, and melon. The diagnosis of oral allergy syndrome was confirmed by oral challenges. In addition, histamine release to recombinant Bet v 1 and Bet v 2, and recombinant Phl p 1 and Phl p 2, Phl p 5 was performed.
Results: The skin prick test with fresh hazelnut, apple, and melon showed sensitivities of 0.97, 0.92, and 0.89, respectively. The corresponding specificities were 0.78, 0.72, and 0.82, respectively. In contrast, the histamine-release test with hazelnut, apple, and melon gave sensitivities of 0.87, 0.71, and 1.00, respectively. The corresponding specificities were 0.65, 0.93, and 0.43. The skin prick test showed excellent negative predictive value (> 90%). No added value of recombinant allergen testing was noted. Oral challenge did not result in severe systemic reactions, and no systemic reactions were observed with skin prick tests with fresh fruits.
Conclusion: The skin prick test showed an almost optimal diagnostic value with a satisfactory sensitivity (> 89%) and excellent negative predictive value with fresh fruits. When the skin prick test with fresh nut and apple cannot be performed, histamine release is a diagnostic alternative. Histamine release with melon showed lack of specificity. This was probably due to extensive IgE cross-reactivity with pollen, since these patients also responded to recombinant Phl p 1 and Bet v 1. Skin testing and challenges with fresh fruits were safe.