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New insights into seafood allergy

Lopata, Andreas L; Lehrer, Samuel B

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: June 2009 - Volume 9 - Issue 3 - p 270–277
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e32832b3e6f
Food allergy: Edited by Alessandro Fiocchi and Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn

Purpose of review Seafood plays an important role in human nutrition worldwide, sustained by international trade of a variety of new seafood products. Increased production and consumption have resulted in more frequent reports of adverse reactions, highlighting the need for more specific diagnosis and treatment of seafood allergy. This review discusses recent literature in this field.

Recent findings The most recent prevalence data from Asia highlight seafood as a significant sensitizer in up to 40% of children and 33% of adults. Furthermore, the demonstration of species-specific sensitization to salt-water and fresh-water prawns and processed prawn extract should improve diagnosis. Studies on humans demonstrated for the first time that biologically active fish allergens can be detected in serum samples as early as 10 min after ingestion. These studies highlight that minute amounts of ingested seafood allergens can quickly trigger allergic symptoms; also, inhaled airborne allergens seem to induce sensitization and reactions. In the past 2 years, over 10 additional seafood allergens have been characterized. Allergen-specific detection assays in food products are available for crustacean tropomyosin; however, many specific mollusk and some fish allergens are not readily identified.

Summary Although cross-reactivity between crustacean and mollusks as well as mites is demonstrated, the often poor correlation of IgE reactivity and clinical symptoms calls for more detailed investigations. The recent development of hypoallergenic parvalbumin from carp could form the basis for safer vaccination products for treatment of fish allergy. Molecular characterization of more universal marker allergens for the three major seafood groups will improve current component-resolved clinical diagnosis and have a significant impact on the management of allergic patients, on food labeling and on future immunotherapy for seafood allergy.

aRMIT University, Bundoora West Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

bTulane University, New Orleans, Los Angeles, USA

Correspondence to Andreas L. Lopata, Associate Professor, RMIT University, Bundoora West Campus, Melbourne, VIC 3083, Australia Tel: +61 3 9925 6627; fax: +61 3 9925 7110; e-mail:

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.