Performance of specific immunoglobulin E tests for diagnosing occupational asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Occup Environ Med. 2019 Apr;76(4):269-278. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105434. Epub 2019 Feb 25.


Objectives: To determine the test performance parameters for the retrievable range of high-molecular-weight (HMW) and low-molecular-weight (LMW) occupational allergens and to evaluate the impact of allergenic components and the implementation of measures for test validation.

Methods: A protocol with predefined objectives and inclusion criteria was the basis of an electronic literature search of MEDLINE and EMBASE (time period 1967-2016). The specific inhalation challenge and serial peak flow measurements were the reference standards for the specific IgE (sIgE) test parameters. All of the review procedures were reported according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses.

Results: Seventy-one studies were selected, and 62 entered meta-analysis. Pooled pairs analysis indicated a sensitivity of 0.74(95% CI 0.66 to 0.80) and specificity of 0.71(95% CI 0.63 to 0.77) for HMW allergens and a sensitivity of 0.28(95% CI 0.18 to 0.40) and specificity of 0.89(95% CI 0.77 to 0.95) for LMW allergens. Component-specific analysis improved the test parameters for some allergens. Test validation was handled heterogeneously among studies.

Conclusion: sIgE test performance is rather satisfactory for a wide range of HMW allergens with the potential for component-specific approaches, whereas sensitivity for LMW allergens is considerably lower, indicating methodological complications and/or divergent pathomechanisms. A common standard for test validation is needed.

Keywords: allergy; in-vitro; occupational asthma; occupational health practice; sensitizers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Allergens / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Area Under Curve
  • Asthma, Occupational / blood*
  • Asthma, Occupational / diagnosis*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cattle
  • Edible Grain / immunology
  • Edible Grain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Latex Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Latex Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • ROC Curve


  • Allergens
  • Biomarkers
  • Immunoglobulin E