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New Study Suggests Shellfish Allergies More Common in Black Children

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A new study revealed that Black children are more likely to have a shellfish or finfish allergy than their white peers. According to the report, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, the increased allergy rates were also associated with a higher incidence of asthma.

The findings, gathered across several hospitals, showed a significant divide when it came to how different races are affected by the burden of food allergies. They point to a need to better aid certain groups.

“Food allergy is a common condition in the U.S.,” said researcher Mahboobeh Mahdavinia, M.D., Ph.D., in a press release. “We know from our previous research that there are important differences between Black and white children with food allergy, but there is so much we need to know to be able to help our patients from minority groups.”

The study pointed to exposure to cockroaches as a potential risk factor in the development of shellfish or finfish allergies. Scientists explained that cockroaches share 80% of the amino acid sequencing with shellfish — cockroaches are also one of the most common household allergens along with dust mites.

Dr. Mahdavinia explained, “Previous studies indicate that cockroach exposure may be an important mechanism by which children develop a shellfish allergy. The immune system can confuse certain proteins in seafood with similar proteins that are present in the muscles of cockroaches that commonly elicit an allergic response.”

This is a significant finding when it comes to looking at how Black children may be especially at risk for the development of a shellfish/finfish allergy. One study found that cockroach allergens were detected in 85% of inner-city homes. Another study pointed to socioeconomic status as a risk factor for cockroach allergen exposure and sensitization in children with asthma. Low socioeconomic status, which due to years of racial discrimination disproportionally affects the Black community, puts you at a higher risk.

Researchers in these novel findings explained that the results also indicated an interesting relationship between a shellfish allergy and asthma. “A major concern is that there is a higher prevalence of asthma in Black children with food allergies when compared with white children with food allergies. Approximately 70% of fatal food anaphylaxis is accompanied by asthma. Black children are at a two- to threefold risk of fatal anaphylaxis compared to white children,” Mahdavinia said.

According to this study, the data could be beneficial in reducing Black children’s exposure to known allergen triggers and in turn, improving health outcomes. Mahdavinia added, “We need to conduct further research to identify food allergies and food sensitivities among all races and ethnicities so we can develop culturally-sensitive and effective educational programs to improve food allergy outcomes for all children.”

Header image via ImageegamI/Getty Images

Originally published: February 5, 2021
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