Author(s): Sanz ML, Maselli JP, Gamboa PM, Oehling A, Diguez I
Flow cytometry is a technique enabling the analysis of physical and biological characteristics of cells or other biological particles when labeled with antibodies coupled to fluorochromes or other dyes. The basophil activation test (BAT), also called flow-cytometric allergen stimulation test (FAST) [commercially available under the name of Flow CAST (Bühlmann Laboratories) or BASOTEST (Beckton-Dickinson)] is based on the in vitro allergen-induced specific activation of basophils. This assay rests on the demonstration of some membrane protein markers that appear after exposure to the allergen. This paper reviews some of the literature about the use of this technique in the investigation of immediate-type allergies to inhalant allergens, drugs, and foods, as well as our own experience with this diagnostic technique. Flow cytometry is a reliable method for the quantification of basophil activation after allergenic stimulus in vitro and in vivo. It also enables us to detect allergic and pseudoallergic reactions because of other mechanisms than allergen-specific IgE antibodies. Further clinical evaluation of this technique will allow validation and better establishment of its diagnostic value in allergy.