New hope for fish allergy sufferers: ray consumption can be safe

2019 - 01 - 11

Fish allergy is one of the most dangerous food allergies as it can cause potentially life-threatening symptoms such as anaphylactic shock. LIH scientists discovered that the protein parvalbumin, usually causing allergy, is much less allergenic in cartilaginous fish than in bony fish. People allergic to fish do thus no longer need to avoid a particularly healthy food source.

A new study carried out at LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity and at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL), jointly with food experts of the Medical University of Vienna, has shown that parvalbumin in the flesh of cartilaginous fish has a lower allergenic potential than that of bony fish, which is consumed much more often. The thornback ray (Raja clavata), a cartilaginous fish, has been identified as a possible food alternative for fish allergy sufferers. In the study, almost all subjects were able to consume the ray without any allergic reaction, despite proven - sometimes severe - allergy to fish. This result was published in the renowned Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

Dr Annette Kuehn from LIH, Dr Françoise Morel-Codreanu from CHL and Prof Heimo Breiteneder of the Medical University of Vienna agree: ‘There is now an unexpected alternative for allergy sufferers who still want to eat fish. However, they should first consult an allergy specialist and be tested for tolerance to the thornback ray.’ Thornback ray is widespread - from the eastern Atlantic to Norway and from the North Sea to Namibia - and it is also available in food stores in our regions.

This initial study has far-reaching potential. We now plan to globally expand the study, which has initially focused on the European population, to ultimately significantly improve the quality of life of many people suffering from fish allergy’, underlines Tanja Kalic of the Medical University of Vienna, first author of the publication. ‘We are also seeking to expand the range of fish that allergy sufferers can safely consume.’

Dr Annette Kühn, Dr Christiane Hilger and Prof Markus Ollert from LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity, Dr Martine Morisset and Dr Françoise Morel-Codreanu from CHL, Prof Heimo Breiteneder and Tanja Kalic from the Medical University of Vienna and their respective teams worked intensively together for this study. All allergy and control subjects were enrolled at CHL and the clinical samples were processed at LIH. Other international cooperation partners are Dr Karin Hoffmann-Sommergruber and Prof Christian Radauer from the Medical University of Vienna, Prof Ines Swoboda from the FH Campus Wien, Dr Christine Hafner from the University Hospital St. Pölten and the group of Prof Andreas L. Lopata from the James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. The project was funded, amongst others, by the Luxembourg National Research Fund.

Publication: Fish-allergic patients tolerate rays based on the low allergenicity of its parvalbumin. Kalic et al. (2018), The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

Listen to a radio interview of Dr Annette Kuehn about the study results on Radio 100.7.