Who Let The Mites OUT? Allergies.... Again
How some GMOs might make them worse
Man....I wish I didn't suck at immunology. The last time I studied the subject, the Gipper was President.
A one-hit-wonder was topping the charts having us walk like an Egyptian. The juiciest affair of the era wasn't between a President and an aide wearing a blue dress, or a Twitter flurry of penis images- it was the Iran-Contra affair involving an exchange of weaponry. Genesis described the era best- it really was a land of confusion.
An allergic reaction typically occurs when an antibody known as IgE binds the antigen, activating mast cells to release inflammatory chemicals, the most famous of which is histamine.
Common anti-histamines like Benadryl work by preventing their release. Thus, when testing for allergies is done, what immunologists are usually testing is the antibody IgE.
Did you know that an allergy to birch tree pollen can cause allergies to apples and other fruits? It is true. This is due to an antigen is known as bet v 1. And allergy to cockroaches or dust mites could make you more prone to allergies to shrimp due to a shared tropomyosin. And if you were to develop an allergy to latex you might become allergic to kiwis and chestnuts.
- Cross-reactivity explains the reasons for the overlap of symptoms between inhalant/contact allergies known as atopy and food allergies.
Cross- reactivity refers to the ability of the IgE antibody to react with more than one allergen/antigen from different sources due to shared antigenic components, such as those between birch pollen and fruit, or grasses and grains, or dust mites and shrimp. Good list of cross-reacting allergens.
Cross reactions arise because the binding site on the allergen-- known as an epitope-- the business end of the allergen made up of a chain of folded amino acids--fits the IgE antibody, like a lock and key in three dimensions.
Phew...... not too bad, right?
Now that we have some basic immunology figured out, what does any of this have to do with GMOs?
We will get to it in just a minute.
First, I'd like to introduce you to some microscopic critters billions of whom share our homes, our beds, couches and live on your pet's kibble. They are known as dust mites. Nasty looking critters, aren't they? Another type of mite called storage mites, just as ugly as these, also live on cereals and your pets' dry food.
|Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus Wikipedia|
Because house dust mites are microscopic the general feeling about them among clients could be "How much harm can they cause my pet or me?"In fact, the most common allergen in dogs and cats (and in people, too) is dust mites. Anyone who is allergic to dust mites can attest to the miserable symptoms this condition can cause. It seems our domestication of dogs and cats (i.e., bringing them into our households and beds) also succeeded in sensitizing them to this common allergen.....so; they suffer from them just like we do.
- So, what if.. these mites are not only living on the food but are actually in the food?
And this is where genetically modified foods (GMOs) come in. No, I am not saying that eating a genetically modified organism (GMO) means you are eating microscopic mite body parts.
- But... there is a distinct possibility that a segment of a dust mite allergen might have been spliced into Round Up Ready GMO foods.
And this is why.
The most common commercialized GMOs are Round Up resistant: corn, soy, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa. They were engineered to be herbicide resistant by insertion of a transgene known as Cp4 EPSPS which produces a protein EPSPS (Enoyl Pyruvyl Shikimate Phosphate Synthase), isolated from a bacteria found growing in an herbicide waste tank, which rendered it resistant to the herbicide- Round Up -Agrobacterium CP4.
Insertion of exogenous, new and foreign DNA into plants raises concerns about unintended effects such as the creation of novel allergens. The World Health Organization (WHO) gathered together global experts in allergies and published guidelines on screening GMOs for known allergens in 2001.
The very first step in the decision tree WHO experts established screening GMOs for novel allergens is this fundamental rule. " if a new gene product spliced in shares 6 amino acids ( protein building blocks) with known allergens, such a match triggers further allergy testing on serum from 25 people with an allergy to that substance."
It isn't the only one.
If you look at Table 4 and Table 5 in the link below, you will notice other potential allergenic matches between new genes being spliced in and known allergens, which I haven't checked. The decision tree is also graphically illustrated in the article linked below.
Screening of transgenic proteins expressed in transgenic food crops for the presence of short amino acid sequences identical to potential, IgE – binding linear epitopes of allergens
This brings me back to the conversation with Nathanael and a link he provided to studies on genetically modified foods conducted thus far which help answer the following question:
"did the companies commercializing these crops conduct proper studies to make sure that the transgene was not allergenic based on the guidelines established by the WHO"? Did they even perform the most basic preliminary steps to screen out allergens?
And the answer is: no, not really.
@beachvetlbc Thanks! Is this what you were talking about? http://t.co/znW9L404cO
— Nathanael Johnson (@SavorTooth) September 13, 2013
@beachvetlbc so confused. Are you actually @JonEntine? Or did you give me the wrong link?
— Nathanael Johnson (@SavorTooth) September 13, 2013
@beachvetlbc I found what you meant - the comments. But sure, no need to ask permission.
— Nathanael Johnson (@SavorTooth) September 14, 2013
While GMO advocates quote these authoritative bodies to support their safety, as you will soon find out--the basic safety guidelines established by these bodies are not followed!
Ruling out cross-reactivity between the dust mite allergen and the new protein coded by the transgene, an ELISA inhibition assay is required on 25 serum samples from patients with high titers to dust mites-- according to a global panel of allergy experts assembled by the World Health Organization. Since allergies to dust mites are so incredibly common, it should be exceedingly easy to locate serum samples.
Unfortunately, a targeted screen utilizing inhibition ELISA was performed on a pooled sample of 4 in one of the studies cited by Nathanael. Interestingly, it did show minimal cross-reactivity. But pooling a sample reduces its accuracy while a sample of four has a very low probability of detecting cross-reactivity.
Additionally, the studies cited were performed on patients in Korea, Portugal and Japan---countries where GMOs are neither as prevalent as in the US nor sold unlabeled. There is not a single study done on a statistically significant number of samples (>10) from Americans with the longest and highest level of exposure to GMOs.
Thus, if you, your child or your pet is sensitized to mites, dust mites or storage mites, the allergies might be exacerbated by foods containing some or all Round Up Ready crops: soy, corn, canola, sugar beets ( beet pulp). Remember, with allergies it isn't the quantity or the amount--it is exposure to an allergen.
- Unfortunately, it takes only a tiny amount of mite allergen to elicit an allergic reaction in our pets and people.
- Allergic cross-reactivity is often encountered as a reaction without prior exposure. A very common public misunderstanding is that people and pets express allergies on the first time they are exposed to an allergen. This is very rare, as normally sensitization over a long period is required to have allergy symptoms.
 Email I sent to Nathanael- I never received a response.
Sadly, for the American public, there are very few trustworthy journalists on the GMO beat abiding by the Journalism Code of Ethics.
Society of Professional Journalists explainer on journalism Ethics:
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility.