Elucidation of the mechanism of immune tolerance in beekeepers

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    Elucidation of the mechanism of immune tolerance in beekeepers



  • Contact name

    Claire A Bethune

  • Contact email


  • Sponsor organisation

    University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    4 years, 0 months, 1 days

  • Research summary

    This project will investigate why some beekeepers who are sensitised to bee venom are able to tolerate bee stings, while in other sensitised individuals a bee sting can lead to life threatening anaphylaxis. This is not only of significance to beekeepers, but also has potential implications for the understanding of allergen tolerance in other allergic disease. Beekeepers experience multiple stings many of whom (25-60%) become sensitised to bee venom through the production of IgE antibodies However only a small proportion of the sensitised group go on to have anaphylaxis to bee venom. This study will investigate differences in T cell tolerance to bee venom by exploring factors that “protect” sensitised individuals from having anaphylactic reactions – meaning that despite being sensitised they are tolerant and do not react to subsequent stings.
    T regulatory cell (Tregs) play a critical role in promoting immune tolerance to allergens and Treg generation has been shown to occur in bee venom allergic individuals following venom desensitisation therapy. Observations in sensitised tolerant (non-allergic) beekeepers suggest that exposure to venom through bee stings results in a similar increase in the frequencies of induced Tregs (iTregs). Helios negative induced Treg cells have also been suggested to contribute significantly to the establishment of immune tolerance in beekeepers. We will analyse the differences in Treg and Teffector populations comparing sensitised beekeepers who able to tolerate venom exposure with those beekeepers who do develop symptoms of systemic allergic reactions following bee sting. Molecular targets will be identified and and epigenetic regulations investigated and compared in the sensitiesed allergic and sensitised but tolerant beekeepers. A group of non sensitised individuals will be recruited as a control population.

  • REC name

    London - West London & GTAC Research Ethics Committee

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    27 Oct 2023

  • REC opinion

    Further Information Favourable Opinion