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Allergies Can Be Transmitted, Doctors Confirm

April 20, 2016

Allergies Can Be Transmitted

A 46-year-old man with leukemia underwent a transplant surgery and developed an allergy to kiwi that he'd never had before. There had been other cases where allergies were transmitted through the transplantation of organs, but this particular case is the first where it was successfully proven that the allergy was caused by the stem cells of the donor. The server Science Alert published information about this case in March 2016.

Allergies Confirmed To Be Transmittable

The man had never suffered from any food allergy prior to receiving a bone marrow transplant from his sister, who is kiwi-allergic. By using a special cytogenetic technique called fluorescent in situ hybridization, the researchers confirmed that the cells in the patient’s blood, which reacted to the presence of kiwi fruit, originated from the bone marrow donor. The research has been published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.

Details on how this happened are subjects for further studies; however, a working hypothesis is that the donor’s stem cells probably carried with them the information that kiwi fruit was an enemy, and transferred this message to all of the new cells derived from them.

Transmission vs. Cure

Imagine we would be able to hit the reset button on allergies… With the above confirmed knowledge it might not be just a dreamy fiction. This research could also show that the change may happen in the reverse – bone marrow transplanted from an allergic donor to a non-allergic recipient may resolve in an allergy cure. In fact, there was one such case described and presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Baltimore.  A 10-year-old boy’s severe peanut allergy disappeared following a bone marrow transplant to treat his acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Further research will be devoted to examining the stem cells in the bone marrow to better understand the workings of the immune system, how allergies arise, and if bone marrow may help in treating allergies.

Transplant-Acquired Food Allergy

Transplant-acquired food allergy (TAFA) is not very frequent (especially for new allergies), because the after-transplant drugs generally suppress allergies. Although a transplant-acquired allergy is mostly found to be associated with liver transplantation, it also has been reported to be related with heart, intestinal, lung, and even renal transplantations in adults. Food allergies afflict many people and, in some severe cases, they can cause a wide range of complications and even death. During a blood transfusion, a temporary transfer of food allergies can happen; however, these cases are rare and the symptoms subside over time.

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