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Clinical & Experimental Allergy

Allergens to wheat and related cereals


A. S. Tatham, Cardiff School of Health Sciences, University of Wales Institute Cardiff, Western Avenue, Cardiff CF5 2YB, UK.


Wheat is one of the major crops grown, processed and consumed by humankind and is associated with both intolerances (notably coeliac disease) and allergies.

Two types of allergy are particularly well characterized. The first is bakers' asthma, which results from the inhalation of flour and dust during grain processing. Although a number of wheat proteins have been shown to bind IgE from patients with bakers' asthma, there is no doubt a well-characterized group of inhibitors of α-amylase (also called chloroform methanol soluble, or CM, proteins) are the major components responsible for this syndrome. The second well-characterized form of allergy to wheat proteins is wheat-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis (WDEIA), with the ω5-gliadins (part of the gluten protein fraction) being the major group of proteins which are responsible. Other forms of food allergy have also been reported, with the proteins responsible including gluten proteins, CM proteins and non-specific lipid transfer proteins.

Processing of wheat and of related cereals (barley and rye, which may contain related allergens) may lead to decreased allergenicity while genetic engineering technology offers opportunities to eliminate allergens by suppressing gene expression.

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