Allergy to corals?

EricHugo at EricHugo at
Thu Dec 5 22:13:28 EST 2002

Apologies to the list if I am forgetting an earlier thread from
coral-list,  but I can't recall if it was posted or whether I got an
email directly on  this subject in the past.

I am responding to the list because this is the second time I have heard
of  what appears to be aerosolized antigens from corals inducing
allergic  response.   The first was from a gentleman who had boiled
corals to clean  their skeleton. I'm curious about others inputs here as
I did not initially  suspect that the first case could have been as was
described, but this post now gives me pause.

Micky, I am aware of numerous people who have developed hypersensitivity
to cnidarians ad other marine venoms, including polychaetes. I don't
know if Meredith Peach is on this list, but I believe she stated in an
email she became hypersensitive to Goniopora toxin (secondary
metabolite, not nematocysts). Also, following fire coral envenomations,
type IV delayed  hypersensitivity reactions (poison oak-ish) seem pretty
common judging by the  number of emails I have gotten from people being
stung and having symptoms  months afterwards. Also, during a field trip
with a class to Belize, four of  about fifteen students were stung by
Cassiopeia (many had ripe gonads at the  time) and developed anaphylaxis
and were overnighted in a hospital.   That's a huge percentage.

What kind of therapy you would use depends on the hypersensitivity
reaction - some are IgE mediated, with antigen cross-linking IgE's bound
to mat cells and basophils   causing degranulation and setting off
cascades. Type II are IgG mediated cytotoxic hypersensitivity where
antibody directed against cell surface antigens mediates cell
destruction   via complement or ADCC, but this is probaby not likely to
be what is happening in your case. Type III are immune complex mediated
hypersensitivities where antigen-antibody complexes are depostied in
tissues and induce complement activiation with an inflammatory response
characterized by large scale neutrophil invasion. Type IV are
cell-mediated hypersensitivities where special T cells release cytokines
activating macrophages or Tc cells that cause the response. Because
three of these may describe what you have, and each has its own
characterisitics, an hence different treatments, I'd probably visit an
immunologist and get some blood work done to determine the best course
of therapy.   Hopefully manageable without carrying epi-pens with you
from this point onward.

Hope this was of some help.   Good luck.

Eric Borneman
Department of Biology and Biochemistry
Program in Ecology and Evolution
University of Houston
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