The Allyfish project, developed by a team of researchers from the University of Algarve (UAlg), received the «Born from Knowledge» award, given by the National Innovation Agency (ANI) within the scope of the Food & Nutrition Awards.
Research in progress aims to reduce the potential allergen of fish, considered the third most allergenic food, causing allergic reactions in 2% to 5% of the adult world population, with a special incidence in children and young people, in which this percentage is around 6%.
The project, developed by researchers Pedro Rodrigues, Cláudia Raposo and Denise Schrama, takes a multidisciplinary approach to fish allergy, from production to the final consumer, based on the characterization of the allergens in this food and on the reduction of its allergenic potential.
Food allergies can be triggered by any food, even though the most frequent ones are nuts, peanuts, seafood, fish, milk, eggs, wheat and soy beans.
Symptoms usually vary with age, and may include skin rashes, wheezing, runny nose and, occasionally, more serious reactions such as anaphylactic reactions, which can be fatal.
The main allergen in fish, responsible for about 95% of allergic reactions in humans, is a protein in your muscle called b-parvalbumin.
Therefore, “there are studies that point out that a reduction in the concentration of this protein in the muscle of the fish is directly related to a decrease in the allergic reaction. This case is, for example, documented in tuna, in which patients allergic to this fresh species, do not have the same type of reaction when they consume canned tuna where the concentration of the allergenic agent is reduced ”.
Using sea bream and sea bass, not only because of their economic importance in the Iberian Peninsula, but also due to the vast knowledge of their production process, the researchers started by enriching the diets of these species with specific calcium chelating molecules such as EDTA (ethylene acid- diamino-tetraacetic), in order to induce the apoform of b-parvalbumin, as well as molecules such as creatine, whose aim is to reduce the concentration of b-parvalbumin in the fish muscle.
The methodology involved the entire fish production process, from the formulation of diets, growth tests, animal welfare test, the quality of its muscle and the concentration of b-parvalbumin, and, finally, reaction test allergic by an IgE assay, performed at the Luxemburg Institute of Health, using serum from patients allergic to fish.
"To date, a reduction of about 50% in allergic reactivity has been achieved, using diets enriched with 3% EDTA, documented by a scientific publication in 2019 and whose procedure was the subject of a provisional patent application", conclude the researchers .
ANI considered the project to be the best candidate of scientific and technological basis for the contest at the Food & Nutrition Awards, which earned it the «Tree of Knowledge» trophy, delivered last Wednesday, 18th.