Cow's milk allergy: diagnostic accuracy of skin prick and patch tests and specific IgE.Allergy 1999; 54(4):346-51A
The objective of the present study was to evaluate the relevance of skin tests and the concentration of cow's milk-specific IgE antibodies in correlation with oral cow's milk challenge in infants with suspected cow's milk allergy.
The study material comprised 143 infants under the age of 2 years who had undergone a diagnostic elimination challenge because of suspected cow's milk allergy in 1996. Cow's milk-specific IgE was measured, and skin prick and patch tests were performed.
Of the 143 oral cow's milk challenges performed, 72 (50%) were positive. Of the positive reactions, 22 involved immediate-type reactions. In 50 patients, delayed-onset reactions of eczematous or gastrointestinal type appeared. Of the infants with challenge-proven cow's milk allergy, 26% showed elevated IgE concentrations to cow's milk, 14% had a positive skin prick test, and 44% had a positive patch test for cow's milk. Interestingly, in most patch test-positive patients, the prick test for cow's milk was negative.
Our study demonstrated that many patients with a negative prick test result had a positive patch test to cow's milk. The patch test was a more sensitive method than the prick test or RAST to detect cow's milk allergy in this study population. Our results indicate that patch testing will significantly increase the probability of early detection of cow's milk allergy. Confirmation of the diagnosis is essential in patients with negative test results but a clinical suspicion of food allergy, and in patch test-positive patients. For this purpose, the most reliable method is the elimination-challenge procedure.