Canadian boy gets allergies from blood transfusion

An 8-year-old Canadian boy undergoing treatment for Medulloblastoma became allergic to nuts and fish after receiving a blood transfusion.

According to a report in the Canadian Medical Association, the boy, who was receiving treatment for a type of brain cancer, experienced severe allergic reactions to certain foods a few weeks after receiving the blood transfusion.

Prior to the transfusion, the boy had no history of allergic reactions to any food types, however after the transfusion, the boy suffered a severe reaction within 10 minutes of consuming salmon.

After treating him with antihistamines, doctors recommended the boy avoid fish and to start carrying an epinephrine injector with him. They suspect the blood transfusion triggered the reaction, but four days later, the boy was back in the emergency room after eating a chocolate peanut butter cup.

After an allergy test, doctors found the boy to be allergic to both fish and nuts.

“It’s very rare to have an allergic reaction to a previously tolerated food,” said the report’s senior author, Dr. Julia Upton, a specialist in clinical immunology and allergy at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “The overall idea is that he wasn’t allergic to these foods,” but in the blood transfusion, he received the protein that triggers an allergic reaction to them, she said.

Upton explained that a protein called immunoglobulin E, is an antibody associated with food allergies. When the protein encounters a specific allergen it causes the immune cells to release histamine, which leads to an allergic reaction.

Due to the fact the boy’s body did not make the antibodies against nuts and fish, doctors suspect the allergies were temporary and would go away within a few months.

In the meantime, doctors questioned the Canadian Blood Services about the donor and found that the person was allergic to nuts, fish and shellfish. That donor has subsequently been excluded from making future donations.

“Clearly, the safety of the [blood] supply is of everyone’s utmost concern,” but more research is needed to determine how best to avoid the transfer of allergies, and how frequently this happens, Upton said.

“I think it’s hard to make sweeping recommendations based on one case report,” Upton said.

The boy received plasma, the liquid part of the blood that contain antibodies. Five months later, the boy’s blood tested undetectable for immununoglobulin E and at six months, was back to eating nuts and fish again.

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