Evaluation of food-pollen cross-reactivity by nose–mouth cross-challenge in pollinosis with oral allergy syndrome


Giovanni Passalacqua
Allergy and Respiratory Diseases – DIMI
Padiglione Maragliano
Largo R. Benzi 10
16132 Genoa


Background:  Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is often associated with pollen-induced rhinitis, and there are preferential associations between causative substances. If OAS and rhinitis are both immunoglobulin (Ig)E-mediated and there are cross-reacting proteins, it is expected that similar reactions can be elicited in the nose and mouth. In order to test this hypothesis we performed a series of ‘cross-challenges’ with foods and pollens in both the nose and the mouth.

Methods:  Nine patients with ascertained OAS due to vegetables and rhinitis due to pollens were studied. On the first day a nasal challenge with pollen extracts and an oral challenge with fresh food was carried out. After a week, washout nasal challenge with food and an oral challenge with pollens were performed. Immediate symptoms, mucosal tryptase and soluble eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) were assessed after each challenge.

Results:  The administration of pollen into the nose and food into the mouth elicited symptoms as expected, but the cross-challenge had no clinical effect. In parallel, tryptase and ECP increased after nasal challenge with pollens, whereas foods did not elicit a measurable response.

Conclusion:  The cross-reactivity between foods and pollens, when evaluated at the shock organ, was not clinically evident. This data can be explained with a low concentration of cross-reagent epitopes in pollen extracts and food homogenized because of degradation. The different behaviour upon challenge suggests that different immunological mechanisms may act in the nose and mouth.