Background: Allergy to kiwi fruit appears increasingly common, but few studies have evaluated its clinical characteristics, or evaluated methods of investigating the allergy.
Objective: To characterize the clinical characteristics of kiwi fruit allergy and to study the role of double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC), skin tests and specific IgE in the diagnosis of this food allergy.
Methods: Two-hundred and seventy-three subjects with a history suggestive of allergy to kiwi completed a questionnaire. Forty-five were investigated by DBPCFC, prick-to-prick skin testing with fresh kiwi pulp, and specific IgE measurement. Nineteen subjects were also skin tested using a commercially available solution.
Results: The most frequently reported symptoms were localized to the oral mucosa (65%), but severe symptoms (wheeze, cyanosis or collapse) were reported by 18% of subjects. Young children were significantly more likely than adults to react on their first known exposure (P<0.001), and to report severe symptoms (P=0.008). Twenty-four of 45 subjects (53%) had allergy confirmed by DBPCFC. Prick-to-prick skin test with fresh kiwi was positive in 93% of subjects who had allergy confirmed by DBPCFC, and also in 55% of subjects with a negative food challenge. The commercial extract was significantly less sensitive, but with fewer false-positive reactions. CAP sIgE was only positive in 54% of subjects who had a positive challenge.
Conclusions: Kiwi fruit should be considered a significant food allergen, capable of causing severe reactions, particularly in young children. DBPCFC confirmed allergy to kiwi fruit in 53% of the subjects tested, who had a previous history suggestive of kiwi allergy. Skin testing with fresh fruit has good sensitivity (93%), but poor specificity (45%) in this population. CAP sIgE and a commercially available skin test solution were both much less sensitive (54%; 75%) but had better specificity (90%; 67%).