Usefulness and limitations of sequential serum tryptase for the diagnosis of anaphylaxis in 102 patients

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2013;160(2):192-9. doi: 10.1159/000339749. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


Background: The diagnosis of anaphylaxis is based on clinical history since no reliable biological marker is currently available to confirm the diagnosis.

Objective: It was the aim of this study to determine sequential serum tryptase concentrations during anaphylaxis and to evaluate its potential as a diagnostic marker.

Methods: We performed a prospective study including patients with acute anaphylaxis (according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease/Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network criteria) attending the emergency department. Demographic characteristics, anaphylactic triggers, specific risk factors, clinical characteristics and management of anaphylaxis were recorded. Serum tryptase was measured at 1-2 h (T1), 4-6 h (T2) and 12-24 h (T3) following onset of the episode and at basal conditions (TB).

Results: A total of 102 patients were included (63 females, mean age 47.4 ± 19.1 years). Tryptase concentration at T1 (19.3 ± 15.4 µg/l) was significantly higher than at T2, T3 and TB (all <11.4 µg/l; p < 0.0001). Importantly, tryptase was not raised in 36.3% of cases; furthermore, in 60.6% of these patients, no changes were observed in tryptase levels comparing T1 and TB (ΔT1-TB = 0). Tryptase was more frequently elevated in more severe anaphylaxis (p < 0.0001) and positively correlated with the grades of severity (p < 0.001, r = 0.49). Anaphylaxis was more severe and tryptase concentration higher when the causative agent was a drug compared to food, both at T1 (p = 0.045) and at TB (p = 0.019). Age and coronary risk factors were associated with more severe anaphylaxis (p = 0.001).

Conclusion: Tryptase is a biomarker related to the severity of anaphylaxis. However, since its concentration remains unaltered in a considerable number of patients during acute anaphylaxis, there is a need for more reliable diagnostic biological tests.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anaphylaxis / blood*
  • Anaphylaxis / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tryptases / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Tryptases