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Adv Food Nutr Res. 2008;54:139-77. doi: 10.1016/S1043-4526(07)00004-6.

Molluscan shellfish allergy.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0919, USA.


Food allergies affect approximately 3.5-4.0% of the worldwide population. Immediate-type food allergies are mediated by the production of IgE antibodies to specific proteins that occur naturally in allergenic foods. Symptoms are individually variable ranging from mild rashes and hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Seafood allergies are among the most common types of food allergies on a worldwide basis. Allergies to fish and crustacean shellfish are very common. Molluscan shellfish allergies are well known but do not appear to occur as frequently. Molluscan shellfish allergies have been documented to all classes of mollusks including gastropods (e.g., limpet, abalone), bivalves (e.g., clams, oysters, mussels), and cephalopods (e.g., squid, octopus). Tropomyosin, a major muscle protein, is the only well-recognized allergen in molluscan shellfish. The allergens in oyster (Cra g 1), abalone (Hal m 1), and squid (Tod p 1) have been identified as tropomyosin. Cross-reactivity to tropomyosin from other molluscan shellfish species has been observed with sera from patients allergic to oysters, suggesting that individuals with allergies to molluscan shellfish should avoid eating all species of molluscan shellfish. Cross-reactions with the related tropomyosin allergens in crustacean shellfish may also occur but this is less clearly defined. Occupational allergies have also been described in workers exposed to molluscan shellfish products by the respiratory and/or cutaneous routes. With food allergies, one man's food may truly be another man's poison. Individuals with food allergies react adversely to the ingestion of foods and food ingredients that most consumers can safely ingest (Taylor and Hefle, 2001). The allergens that provoke adverse reactions in susceptible individuals are naturally occurring proteins in the specific foods (Bush and Hefle, 1996). Molluscan shellfish, like virtually all foods that contain protein, can provoke allergic reactions in some individuals.

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