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Keywords:

  • allergens;
  • beef;
  • cross-reactivity;
  • IgG;
  • meat allergy

Background: Although beef is a main source of protein in Western diets, very little has been published on allergic reactions to beef or the main allergens implicated in these reactions. The aim was to evaluate the IgE antibody response to beef in suspected meat-allergic subjects and assess cross-reactivity of beef with other vertebrate meats.

Methods: Fifty-seven sera from suspected meat-allergic subjects were tested by grid blot for specific IgE antibodies to vertebrate meats (beef, lamb, pork, venison, and chicken), and the patterns of recognition of meat proteins were assessed by immunoblot studies.

Results: A 160-kDa band, identified as bovine IgG, was detected in raw beef in 83% (10/12) of beef-allergic subjects but in only 24% of the beef-tolerant subjects. IgE reactivity to a band of similar mol. mass was detected also in lamb and venison, but rarely in pork or chicken. Complete inhibition of the IgE reactivity to the bovine IgG was obtained with lamb, venison, and milk. IgE reactivity to this band also completely disappeared when beef or lamb extracts were separated under reducing conditions, indicating conformational epitopes.

Conclusions: Bovine IgG appears to be a major cross-reacting meat allergen that could predict beef allergy. Further studies with oral IgG challenges should be performed to document the conclusion that in vitro reactivity correlates with clinical hypersensitivity. The role of bovine IgG in other bovine products such as milk, dander, or hair must also be studied, and the hypothesis that it is a cross-reacting allergen with other mammalian products validated.