Studies on the relationship between the level of specific IgE antibodies and the clinical expression of allergy: I. Definition of levels distinguishing patients with symptomatic from patients with asymptomatic allergy to common aeroallergens

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1995 Nov;96(5 Pt 1):580-7. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(95)70255-5.


Background: The detection of specific IgE antibodies to environmental allergens does not always coincide with a diagnosis of clinically evident allergic disease, because some patients with positive skin and/or in vitro test results have no symptoms related to the allergen or allergens that induced the antibodies.

Objective: In a multicenter study the optimal cutoff values for specific IgE antibody levels and skin test results that could discriminate between patients with symptomatic and those with asymptomatic allergy were determined.

Methods: IgE antibodies specific for a panel of common aeroallergens were assayed with the Pharmacia CAP System (Pharmacia, Uppsala, Sweden) in two groups of patients, a group of 267 patients with symptomatic allergy and a group of 232 with asymptomatic allergy--both with positive skin prick test results--and in a group of 243 healthy, nonallergic control subjects. The cutoff values were established by receiver operating characteristic analysis.

Results: A significantly higher mean specific IgE antibody value was found in patients with symptomatic allergy compared with patients with asymptomatic allergy (p < 0.001) and in patients with symptomatic allergy compared with healthy control subjects (p < 0.001). The optimal CAP System cutoff value between patients with symptomatic and those with asymptomatic allergy was 11.7 kU/L, and when seasonal allergens were compared with perennial allergens, the cutoffs were 10.7 kU/L and 8.4 kU/L, respectively. The optimal cutoff value for the skin prick test was a wheel area of 32 mm2 for seasonal allergens and 31 mm2 for perennial allergens. The skin test had a lower diagnostic value (sum of sensitivity and specificity) than the CAP System.

Conclusions: Cutoff values for specific serum IgE antibody levels are likely to be useful in clinical practice to distinguish symptomatic from asymptomatic allergy in patients with positive skin test results.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Child
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / diagnosis*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / etiology
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / immunology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • ROC Curve
  • Radioallergosorbent Test
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / diagnosis*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / etiology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / immunology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Tests


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E