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Profilin sensitization detected in the office by skin prick test: a study of prevalence and clinical relevance of profilin as a plant food allergen


Dr Riccardo Asero, Ambulatorio di Allergologia, Clinica San Carlo, Via Ospedale 21, 20037 Paderno Dugnano (MI), Italy. E-mail:


Background Profilin, a pan-allergen present in all eukaryotic cells, is one of the main causes of cross-sensitization between pollen and plant-derived foods, but its clinical relevance as a food allergen is still debated.

Objective To investigate the prevalence of profilin sensitization in a pollen-allergic population and its clinical relevance as a food allergen.

Methods Two hundred consecutive patients with pollen allergy underwent skin prick tests (SPT) with purified natural date palm profilin (Pho d 2; 50 μg/mL; Alk Abello, Madrid, Spain). Those reporting adverse reactions to foods (confirmed by SPT with either commercial food extracts or fresh foods) underwent SPT with an apple extract containing uniquely Mal d 1 (2 μg/mL; ALK-Abello), and with a commercial peach extract containing uniquely lipid transfer protein (LTP 30 μg/mL; ALK-Abello).

Results Sixty patients (30%) showed skin reactivity to date palm profilin, Pho d 2. All were sensitized to grass pollen, and most of them reacted to birch, mugwort, ragweed and plantain pollen as well. SPT with pellitory and cypress scored negative in a high proportion of profilin reactors [26/60 (43%) and 33/60 (55%), respectively]. More than one half (34/60 [57%]) of profilin reactors had food allergy; 21 of these were monosensitized to profilin, 11 were sensitized to both profilin and Bet v 1 homologous protein, one to both profilin and LTP, and one to all the three allergens. The large majority of profilin-allergic patients reported oral allergy syndrome as the only food-induced symptom and were able to tolerate the offending foods if they were cooked or otherwise processed. Twenty-eight of 34 reported reactivity to two or more plant-derived foods. Rosaceae, tree nuts, melon and watermelon, tomato, pineapple, citrus fruits and banana were the more frequently offending foods.

Conclusion Profilin should be considered a clinically relevant food allergen. Allergy to melon, watermelon, tomato, banana, pineapple and orange may be considered as a marker of profilin hypersensitivity. This study underlines the clinical importance of being able to diagnose hypersensitivity to single food allergenic proteins by SPT, particularly when the relevant food allergen sources contain several allergens that show different chemical/physical features and, hence, completely different risk profiles.