Crocodile Meat Can Trigger Anaphylaxis in Fish-Allergic Individuals, Experts Warn

By Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is based in New York and covers health and U.S. news. Contact her at marina.zhang@epochtimes.com.au.
May 20, 2022 Updated: May 20, 2022

A study conducted by James Cook University has found that crocodile meat can trigger dangerous allergic responses if consumed by people that are allergic to fish.

Fish allergy affects up to three percent of the general population and frequently results in life-threatening anaphylaxis,” said lead researcher Dr Thimos Reuthers.

Crocodile meats are typically considered to be a “healthy and alternative protein source” for fish-allergic individuals, with both crocodile and alligator meat is commonly eaten within countries in the tropics.

However, the team found increased reports of life-threatening anaphylaxis after consumption of crocodile meat associated with a major fish protein.

Reuthers and other professors from JCU conducted a study on fish-allergic individuals by exposing them to crocodile and other fish meat through an allergen skin prick test.

Individuals are pricked by a medical device coated with crocodile meat or other allergens tested, with the test considered ‘positive’ if a hive reaction occurs at the prick site.

Hive and other allergic responses are induced when the body’s immune system mistakes a harmless substance to be foreign and dangerous and mounts an immune response against the substance. Repeat exposure to the same allergen will trigger the formation of an immunological memory, which will mount an even stronger response every time.

Overall, skin reactions and blood analysis of the participants confirmed that “the vast majority (about 70 per cent) of patients would likely have an allergic reaction when eating crocodile,” said Ruether.

The researchers found that patients allergic to a major allergen; fish parvalbumin, also carried risks to have similar responses when consuming crocodile meat as crocodiles carry a similar protein, and will therefore be recognised by the immune system to mount a similar response.

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

Reuthers said that their studies have identified the first-ever reptile allergen and the team has registered the allergen with the World Health Organisation.

“We have now coined the term ‘fish-crocodile syndrome,’” said Reuther. “Fish-allergic individuals may be at risk of serious allergic reactions upon consumption of crocodilian meat due to them being highly reactive to crocodile parvalbumin.”

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

Marina Zhang
Marina Zhang is based in New York and covers health and U.S. news. Contact her at marina.zhang@epochtimes.com.au.