Researchers at ATFM are developing antibodies with broad specificity for the detection of Southern Hemisphere fish allergens

Researchers at ATFM are developing antibodies with broad specificity for the detection of Southern Hemisphere fish allergens

Fish belongs to the ‘big eight’ food groups that are responsible for the majority of IgE-mediated food allergies, impacting around 2% of people worldwide[1]. Australia’s regulatory requirement for mandatory labelling on pre-packaged foods, is due to the cross-reactivity between fish species, and strict avoidance of all fish species is recommended to fish allergic patients to prevent recurrence.

Despite being regulated by mandatory labelling on pre-packaged foods, detection of fish allergen residues is currently technically challenging for Australian food industry and therefore is not managed effectively. This is because of the large molecular diversity of parvalbumins, the major fish allergen, amongst fish species and no commercial immunodiagnostic test is currently available to detect allergens from Southern hemisphere fish species.Detection of Southern Hemisphere Fish Allergens

ARC Training Centre for Advanced Technologies in Food Manufacturing (ATFM) student Ms Ji Liang and her PhD supervisors, Associate Professor Alice Lee (ATMF UNSW) and Professor Steve Taylor (Food Allergy Research and Resource Program (FARRP) and Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Nebraska, USA) are looking for an alternative and are seeking to develop a sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for detection of fish allergens from southern hemisphere fish species.

Ms Liang, who undertook her Bachelor of Engineering at Beijing Forestry University (China) before undertaking her Masters in Engineering Science at UNSW (2012-2013), is now in the final year of her PhD. “Through my research, I am seeking to develop antibodies with broad specificity as bio-recognition molecules for southern hemisphere fish species. Once we have achieved this, we will be able to develop an immunodiagnostic test as an allergen management tool specific for the Australian food industry”, Ms Liang said.

A novel analytical approach was developed to study the correlation between parvalbumin contents and immunoreactivity of antiparvabumin antibodies. Evaluating the effects of food processing on parvalbumin immunoreactivity was also studied. From these studies, immunologically important southern hemisphere fish species were identified and several species from a diverse phylogenetic relationship were selected to raise antibodies with broad specificity.

Using the developed antibodies, a sensitive sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) has been developed showing broad specificity with southern hemisphere fish species. Future work includes validation of the assay performance and application to a product survey for potential hidden fish residues.

[1] Ben-Shoshan, M. et al., 2010. A population-based study on peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, and sesame allergy prevalence in Canada. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 125(6), pp.1327–1335.

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