Allergy and Cross Reactivity by Sue Killian

BBQAllergens are made up of molecules and many of those molecules may be shared with other allergens, although that may not be immediately obvious to the allergy sufferer. But it explains why a ragweed allergy sufferer, for example, might also react to melons, cucumber and bananas.
This is a very new branch of science about which relatively little is known – so Sue Killian's book is indeed '
a landmark project in that it may usher in an entirely new way of dealing with hypersensitivities of all sorts'.
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson takes a look.

You can buy Sue's book on Amazon here.

Anyone who has an allergy or had had any dealings with allergy knows that it is a complicated and often totally baffling condition. The weirdest foods or environmental happenings appear to trigger reactions with no obvious logic and no apparent link. But maybe there is a link – we are simply not recognising it?

That is what Sue Killian's new book suggests.

Allergens are made up of molecules. The same molecules may appear in many different members of a botanical family – and botanical families can be very broad and apparently disparate. Molecules are grouped according to their structure and molecules with similar structures will cross react. So why would a ragweed allergy sufferer react to melon, cucumber and bananas? Because they share molecules with similar structures.

Layers of complexity

However logical this may seem, it opens up a positive ocean of extra complexity in an already complex subject. And because this is a relatively new concept, prior to Sue Killian's book, there has been very little research in this area. Which is why this book is such a vital and valuable addition to the literature on allergy. As another of her medical reviewers says:

'Globally, allergies are on the rise in all patient populations. Along with this increasing incidence of allergic disease, we’re also seeing a rise in allergic cross reactivity. Without sufficiently identifying and addressing cross reactions in our patients, they continue to suffer. Ms. Killian has done a superb job articulating the current science (and contributing her own impressive body of research) around allergen cross reactivity. This book is a great reference tool for any clinician treating individuals with allergic disease who is looking for better patient outcomes.'

However, it is not just a book for clinicians, although it includes an impressive amount of science. It also a book that can work for the baffled allergy sufferer who has struggled to find help or understanding for their inexplicable reactions. Sue Killian is herself an allergy sufferer – she was a science teacher who was poisoned, in her classroom, by chlordane, a long-lasting and highly-toxic pesticide. No longer able to teach, she chose environmental biology as her new field of study which led her to leading-edge allergy research. But as a sufferer herself she brings a very accessible attitude to her science. To allow you to understand what I mean, I think I can do no better than to quote you her own introduction:

Patients with allergies often find themselves on a long, long journey. We who search the elusive route toward controlling our allergies find there are no multilingual tour guides, no translators, no rental cars, no rail passes, no travellers’ aid, few scenic views, and all sorts of unplanned disastrous destinations. Sometimes we feel as though we’ve slid under the bus.

We can be the passive traveller exploring this world of allergy, blame the tour guides for all the ugly mishaps, lose our luggage, get sick on the bus, abhor the strange foods, and finish the trip exhausted with tales of misery and some really badphotos. Or we can drive that bus.

Let’s choose to drive the bus. Let’s plan this trip, learn the languages, review the brochures, sharpen our skills, select a main route, choose our side trips, and decide our destinations. Let’s toss the rigid set of plans and change our itinerary day by day as we explore this foreign land. Let’s learn the rules of the road but select the routes, choose destinations, indulge our interests, skip boring side trips, and finish with tales of mystery and intrigue. This book can be your guide through your allergy travels.

We can also learn from other explorers. We can explore in a lab or become a virtual explorer on the Internet or in books. What we learn can be immensely rewarding on a personal level. We can become so fascinated by this world of allergy we almost forget it is our own allergies that led us to explore. We may then be willing to tiptoe into the complex immunology that is simply too scientific for our first excursions.

Experienced readers of science use this approach when reading complex journal articles. They read the abstract, the first few paragraphs, and then skip to the conclusion. The middle section often describes methods and details that they may search through at a later reading. You may want to read this book in a similar manner.

The first and third sections of this book tell of information you may initially apply to your own allergies. The middle section describes details of a method studying crossreactivity.

Better still, just to acclimate you to the territory, try skimming through the review sections at the end of each chapter.

The major goal of this book is to illuminate cross-reactivity, a fairly new field of scientific study even though allergy sufferers have been affected by cross-reacting allergen molecules since their allergies began to cause symptoms. Both doctors and patients need to become aware that an allergen is a molecule, and some of these molecules can be found in several plants, animals, or moulds. The effects of these shared molecules may take you down an unanticipated road as they can produce unexpected symptoms. Knowledge of these cross-reactive molecules impacts medical therapies, patient allergen avoidance, landscapers, gardeners, and chefs.

As an allergy patient, family landscaper, gardener, chef, and retired biology teacher, I’ve unknowingly been engaged in exploring cross-reactivity for many years prior to formally working in allergy research. I have observed connections that I simply thought cannot be true. Now I hope to take you, the reader, with me to explore some of these allergenic relationships that can be scientifically explained through cross-reactivity.

The time and effort spent in learning about cross-reactivity can be life-changing. Initially, the allergy traveller needs an overview of allergic reactions, then a focus on the species causing symptoms, and finally a look inside that plant, animal, or mould to see just what causes the reaction. This is where we find the cross-reactive molecules. So tuck some courage and curiosity into your backpack, and let’s travel into the mysterious land of allergy and cross-reactivity!

I can't wait.... If you can't either, you can buy the book right now on Amazon here!

N.B. For those who wish to delve deeper into the subject Sue recommends for further reading Molecular Allergy Diagnostics: Innovation for a Better Patient Management by Jörg Kleine-Tebbe(Author, Editor) and‎ Thilo Jakob(Author, Editor). You can get from Amazon here although it will cost you rather a lot of money.... Sue says she managed to find a second hand copy rather cheaper!

November 2017

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