Background Assessment of allergic (IgE antibody-mediated) reactions to foods may become complicated by cross-reactivity that can occur among certain food families and between foods and seemingly unrelated allergens.
Objective The allergenic properties of tropomyosin (muscle-derived protein) have been recently demonstrated in invertebrates such as cockroaches, dust mites, and shrimp. In view of a possible cross-reactivity between food allergens and related allergens from animal sources, we designed a study to assess IgE antibody reactivity to the major shrimp allergen, Pen a 1, in an unexposed population of Orthodox Jews, who observe Kosher dietary laws that prohibit eating shellfish.
Methods Nine subjects, who reacted positively by skin tests to shrimp (Penaeus setiferous), were selected for the study. Subjects (two females, seven males) ranged in age from 14 to 32 years (mean 20.4). All subjects were strictly observant of Jewish tradition and had no prior exposure to seafood (regarded as a non-Kosher food). Serum was obtained from all the subjects and tested for IgE antibody reactivity to shrimp and dust mite.
Results All subjects reported symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis, five had history of asthma, atopic dermatitis, and/or sinusitis. All had positive skin prick tests to shrimp and house dust mite (HDM) (Dermatophagoides farinae, D. pteronyssinus, or both); 2/7 subjects were positive to cockroach mix (Blattella germanica and Periplaneta americana). Sera of 4/9 subjects demonstrated specific IgE antibodies by RAST to shrimp (7.0–20.0%), 3/9 to Pen a 1 (6.3–24.1%), and 3/9 to shrimp or Pen a 1 by immunoblot. IgE binding to Pen a 1 was inhibited with either mite or cockroach extracts as demonstrated by RAST and/or immunoblot inhibition analysis.
Conclusions These studies indicate that IgE antibody reactivity to a major food allergen, shrimp, can occur in an unexposed population of individuals; some subjects allergic to HDM and/or cockroach show substantial IgE antibody reactivity to the major shrimp allergen Pen a 1 (tropomyosin). Based on inhibition with cockroach and/or dust mite extracts, this reactivity appears to be due to cross-reacting tropomyosins.