Credit: Martin Withers/ FLPA

During a recent bone marrow transplant, a 46-year-old man acquired his donor’s food allergy.  Although the surgery was a success, the man ate a kiwi and had a severe allergic similar to his donor-sister, who is is very allergic to kiwis and experiences mouth and throat swelling.

There’s been previous instances where patients developed new allergies following bone marrow surgery, but this is the first time doctors can confirm that food allergies were transmitted to another person via surgery by the donor’s cell.

"FISH analysis proved that hematopoietic cells of the male recipient completely originated from the female donor," the researchers reported in a study of the results.  By researching how this happened, it can give some insight to how allergies are triggered, and how we might be able to treat them.

“This is a very interesting discovery in allergies and specifically in immunologic memory,” says Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network. “The immune system maintains its immunologic memory even within a new host. We have seen transfer of food allergy  through solid organ transplants and cord blood in fetuses, but this is one of the first studies that has isolated cell transfer. This is especially exciting as it could give us insights on how to potentially cure life threatening allergies by transfer of normal or non allergic cells into an allergic individual as the authors of this paper suggest,” says Dr. Parikh.