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Friday, 2 February, 2001, 23:56 GMT
Bee sting test could save lives
Bee strings can be fatal
A simple test could save the lives of people who are at risk of developing a potentially fatal reaction to bee and wasp stings.

This research could help to save people's lives

Dr Dagmar Ludolph-Hauser, Ludwig-Maximilians University at Munich
Many people have an allergic reaction to bee and wasp venom. However, a small number of individuals have a much more violent reaction known as anaphylactic shock.

Researchers have found that people who go into anaphylactic shock tend to have permanently raised concentrations of an enzyme called tryptase in their blood.

They believe it could be possible to test people who develop an allergic reaction for levels of this enzyme after being stung.

If they were found to have permanently elevated levels of tryptase, the individuals would require lifelong treatment - rather than the standard treatment for allergic reaction, which lasts for five years.

Blood tests

The raised levels of tryptase are linked to an accumulation of a specific type of cell in the skin which produce the enzyme. This phenomenon is usually associated with a disease called mastocytosis.

Researchers from Ludwig-Maximilians University at Munich, Germany, carried out tests on patients who were allergic to bee and wasp stings. They carried out blood tests at least two weeks after the bee or wasp sting.

The tests revealed that 9 of 12 (75%) patients with high levels of tryptase in their blood suffered severe reactions. However, only 28 of the 102 (28%) patients with lower tryptase concentrations experienced the same severity of reaction.

Researcher Dr Dagmar Ludolph-Hauser said that some patients with mastocytosis were reported to have died after stopping treatment for bee and wasp stings.

She suggested that people found to have high levels of tryptase may require life-long treatment after being stung. Dr Ludolph-Hauser told BBC News Online: "This research could help to save people's lives."

Dr Ludolph-Hauser said more funding was urgently needed to carry out the work of the department.

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