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Allergic cross-reactivity in peanut allergy
Project Code: T07010
Peanut allergy has become a major concern in westernised countries in the past two decades. In contrast to other food allergies, it is rarely outgrown in adolescence and the symptoms are often severe and can be life-threatening. People who are allergic to peanuts are frequently also sensitised to tree nuts, but are only rarely allergic to other legumes (peanuts are a member of the legume family of plants).
One major observation of the project was that individuals allergic to peanut and other food antigens secrete lower levels of the cytokine, IL-10, that is involved in tolerance induction than non-atopic controls (cytokines are chemicals secreted by immune system cells). This might imply a general inefficiency in down-regulating food specific allergic responses in these individuals. Furthermore, peanut allergic individuals produced less interferon (IFN), but more IL-10 to soy than non-peanut allergic individuals and control subjects. This shows that the immunological reactions to peanut and soy, two closely related food allergens, can be different in the same individual.
The researchers concluded that peanut allergic individuals have a different cytokine secretion pattern to non-tolerated foods than control subjects, and that this different cytokine secretion pattern is likely to involve antigen presenting cells. The researchers hypothesise that a skewed population of antigen presenting cells might facilitate the spreading of sensitisation to other foods. Therefore, they suggest that any intervention that is likely to be successful in food allergy should involve these cells. However, further work is needed using younger individuals where the process of allergy development is still ongoing in order to confirm the findings.
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