The basophil activation test in immediate-type drug allergy

Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2009 Aug;29(3):555-66. doi: 10.1016/j.iac.2009.04.011.


Diagnosis of drug allergy involves first the recognition of sometimes unusual symptoms as drug allergy and, second, the identification of the eliciting drug. This is an often difficult task, as the clinical picture and underlying pathomechanisms are heterogeneous. In clinical routine, physicians frequently have to rely upon a suggestive history and eventual provocation tests, both having their specific limitations. For this reason both in vivo (skin tests) and in vitro tests are investigated intensively as tools to identify the disease-eliciting drug. One of the tests evaluated in drug allergy is the basophil activation test (BAT). Basophils with their high-affinity IgE receptors are easily accessible and therefore can be used as indicator cells for IgE-mediated reactions. Upon allergen challenge and cross-linking of membrane-bound IgE antibodies (via Fc-epsilon-RI) basophils up-regulate certain activation markers on their surface such as CD63 and CD203c, as well as intracellular markers (eg, phosphorylated p38MAPK). In BAT, these alterations can be detected rapidly on a single-cell basis by multicolor flow cytometry using specific monoclonal antibodies. Combining this technique with in vitro passive sensitization of donor basophils with patients' serum, one can prove the IgE dependence of a drug reaction. This article summarizes the authors' current experience with the BAT in the diagnostic management of immediate-type drug allergy mediated by drug-specific IgE antibodies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Antigens, Differentiation / metabolism
  • Basophil Degranulation Test / methods
  • Basophil Degranulation Test / statistics & numerical data
  • Basophils / immunology
  • Basophils / metabolism*
  • Basophils / pathology
  • Cell Degranulation
  • Cell Separation
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / metabolism
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / pathology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / diagnosis*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / metabolism
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / pathology
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Platelet Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Pyrophosphatases / metabolism
  • Receptors, IgE / metabolism
  • Skin Tests
  • Tetraspanin 30
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • CD63 protein, human
  • ENPP3 protein, human
  • Platelet Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, IgE
  • Tetraspanin 30
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Phosphoric Diester Hydrolases
  • Pyrophosphatases