Medical Field: Pulmonology and Allergology
Award: Finalist
Country: Slovenia
Year: 2021
Research Work: Biomarkers of the Severity of Honeybee Sting Reactions and the Severity and Threshold of Systemic Adverse Events During Immunotherapy
Published in: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology-In Practice



Peter Kopač, MD, is the head of Allergology Department at the University Clinic Golnik. He and his whole team are happy and honoured to be among the finalists of the International Medis Awards. It gave them the confirmation that they are doing the right work and the opportunity to present their clinically relevant findings to a wider audience.

His main clinical and research interests are in atopic diseases such as asthma and allergies, particularly drug hypersensitivity and venom immunotherapy. He is very pleased to be part of the internationally renowned research team at the Golnik Clinic, where experts in basic immunology and clinical medicine are closely linked and work very well together. He is particularly proud to be able to apply the results of their research on stings from Hymenoptera insects in his daily clinical practice.

Stings from Hymenoptera insects can cause life-threatening systemic allergic reactions – anaphylaxis. Venom immunotherapy (VIT) is the only effective treatment to prevent further anaphylaxis. However, also during VIT patients may develop severe systemic side effects. Peter Kopač, MD, and his team predicted that patients with such severe anaphylactic phenotype has common immunological background. They believed that identifying specific risk factors that could identify individuals at high risk for either event would advance current treatment by improving patient selection for VIT and assisting in selecting the most appropriate schedule, type, and duration of venom immunotherapy.

We examined various clinical parameters (including gender, age, and use of cardiovascular medications) and immunological (serologic and cellular) factors in 332 bee venom-allergic patients undergoing venom immunotherapy to determine whether they could serve as predictors of the above events.

The team found that the basophil response, as reflected by the proportion of basophils activated in response to in vitro allergen stimulation, and mast cell burden, as reflected by baseline tryptase levels, are important and independent predictors of the severity of sting reactions and systemic adverse events during VIT in patients with bee venom allergy. 

These risk factors may be important in identifying patients at high risk for a severe/life-threatening anaphylactic reaction and can facilitate the decision for starting immunotherapy and/or for the selection of the most appropriate and safe build-up schedule of venom immunotherapy.

In his spare time, he enjoys reading science fiction novels and getting lost in the wilderness with his wife and rescued greyhound.