Background. The basophil activation test (BAT) has been recently described as a useful in vitro tool for diagnosis of allergy to Anisakis species in patients with acute urticaria. Aim. To evaluate the relationship between sensitization to Anisakis simplex and chronic urticaria (CU), using flow cytometry analysis of in vitro BAT. Methods. A. simplex sensitization was evaluated in patients with CU (n = 57) and in atopic (n = 22) and healthy controls (n = 20) by means of skin prick test (SPT), specific IgE and Anisakis-induced BAT using a triple-labelled strategy with anti-CD123, anti-human leucocyte antigen DR and anti-CD63 antibodies. During a follow-up period of 6 months in 10 patients with CU who accepted a fish-free dietary regimen, the diagnostic performance of the in vivo and in vitro methods was calculated, and changes in specific IgE and BAT were evaluated with respect to clinical response. Results. A significant association between CU and A. simplex sensitization was found, with an overall prevalence of 75.4% in patients with CU (43/57) compared with 18% (4/22) and 10% (2/20) of the atopic and healthy controls, respectively (P <0.0001). BAT (cut-off > 13%) had the highest sensitivity and specificity, with significantly better ability than specific IgE testing for the identification of A. simplex sensitization in patients with CU. During the 6-month follow-up, clinical improvement was seen in all patients, and specific IgE and BAT results decreased to normal values in 6/10 (60%) and 10/10 (100%) patients, respectively. Conclusions. BAT can be considered a reliable new in vitro method to evaluate A. simplex hypersensitivity in patients with CU, supplementing standardized procedures in both diagnosis and follow-up.
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