Crocodile meat can trigger anaphylaxis in people with fish allergies, experts warn

A study conducted by James Cook University found that crocodile meat can trigger dangerous allergic reactions if eaten by people with fish allergies.

“Fish allergy affects up to 3% of the general population and frequently leads to life-threatening anaphylaxis,” said lead researcher Dr. Thimos Reuthers.

Crocodile meat is generally considered a “healthy and alternative source of protein” for people with fish allergies, with crocodile and alligator meat being commonly eaten in tropical countries.

However, the team found an increase in reports of life-threatening anaphylaxis after eating crocodile meat combined with a major fish protein.

Reuthers and other JCU professors conducted a study on people with fish allergies by exposing them to crocodile and other fish meats through an allergen skin test.

Individuals are bitten by a medical device coated with crocodile meat or other tested allergens, with the test being considered “positive” if a hive reaction occurs at the site of the bite.

Hives and other allergic responses are induced when the body’s immune system mistakes a harmless substance for a foreign and dangerous one and mounts an immune response against the substance. Repeated exposure to the same allergen will trigger the formation of an immunological memory, which will produce an even stronger response each time.

Overall, participants’ skin reactions and blood tests confirmed that “the vast majority (about 70%) of patients would likely have an allergic reaction from eating crocodile,” Ruether said.

The researchers found that patients allergic to a major allergen; fish parvalbumin, was also likely to have similar responses when eating crocodile meat, as crocodiles carry a similar protein, and will therefore be recognized by the immune system to produce a similar response.

The researchers also compared other animals that had proteins in a similar sequence to fish parvalbumin and hypothesized that similar allergic reactions might also occur in other animals, including snakes, lizards, turtles and frogs.

Reuthers said their studies identified the first ever reptile allergen and the team registered the allergen with the World Health Organization.

“We’ve now coined the term ‘fish-crocodile syndrome,'” Reuther said. .”

The team proposed that fish-allergic patients avoid the consumption of crocodile meat unless meat tolerance has been confirmed and encouraged further research to improve the accuracy and relevance of the results.


Marina Zhang is based in New York and covers US health and current affairs. Contact her at [email protected]

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