Food allergens unmasked
Vienna/Norwich – Austrian and British researchers have come up with a new method for predicting a food’s potential to cause an allergic reaction (J. Allergy Clin. Immunol., Oct. 10). According to the scientists from the Institute of Food Research in Norwich and the Medical University of Vienna, the degree of relation between an animal food protein and human proteins determines whether the former could cause allergies. “We found that only an animal food protein that is less than 54% identical to a human equivalent could become allergenic”, explains Dr. Clare Mills from IFR.
The researchers discovered that the majority of animal food allergens could be classified into three protein families – invertebrate tropomyosins, EF-hand proteins, and caseins.
EF-hand proteins form the second largest animal food allergen family. Those in birds and mammals are not allergenic, while those in frogs and fish can cause allergy. The third animal food allergen family, caseins, are all mammalian proteins from milk. In previous analyses of plant food allergens published in 2005, the scientists found that most belong to a highly-restricted number of protein superfamilies. The results will make it easier to identify new allergens and help explain how they trigger an immune response.