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A structural basis for food allergy: the role of cross-reactivity

Bonds, Rana S; Midoro-Horiuti, Terumi; Goldblum, Randall

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: February 2008 - Volume 8 - Issue 1 - p 82–86
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3282f4177e
Mechanisms of allergy and adult asthma: Edited by Stephen T. Holgate and J. Andrew Grant

Purpose of review Immunologic cross-reactivity, which is important in many aspects of host defense and immune-mediated diseases, is a prominent feature of allergic disorders. The goal of this article is to define allergenic cross-reactivity and its role in food allergy, review current understanding of mechanisms of cross-reactivity, and consider how advances in our ability to predict cross-reactivity can impact diagnosis and treatment of food allergy.

Recent findings Recent evidence suggests that specific T cells, in addition to IgE, developed in response to inhaled allergens can cross-react with related food allergens, leading to distinct clinical reactions. Several new cross-reactivities have been identified, including food–food, pollen–food, and latex–venom associations. Debate continues regarding prediction of allergenicity based on protein structure, and clinical relevance of in-vitro testing. Cross-reactivity is also being used to develop specific immunotherapy for treatment of food allergy.

Summary A thorough understanding of immunologic cross-reactivity is essential to advancing our knowledge about food allergy. This knowledge will help elucidate the pathogenesis of the disorder and prevent exposures to allergenic, genetically engineered foods. New insight will allow for better utilization of current diagnostic tools and the development of more accurate tests and therapies for food allergy.

aDivision of Allergy, Pulmonary, Immunology, Critical Care and Sleep, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA

bChild Health Research Center, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA

Correspondence to Rana S. Bonds, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd., Route 0561, Galveston, TX 77555, USA Tel: +1 409 772 3410; fax: +1 409 772 9532; e-mail:

Copyright © 2008 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.