In Korea, common whelk (Buccinum undatum) is a popular edible shellfish. The aim of this study was to observe the sensitization rate to common whelk and to characterize its allergens. We carried out skin prick test (SPT) in 1,700 patients with various allergic diseases. Specific IgE were detected by ELISA in the patient sera and ELISA inhibition tests were conducted. IgE-binding components were identified by means of SDS-PAGE and IgE-immunoblotting. The effects of digestive enzymes were evaluated in both raw and thermally treated extracts. SPT to common whelk was positive (≥2+) in 83 (4.9%) patients studied. Twenty-four (38.7%) out of 62 SPT positive patients had high serum specific IgE to common whelk. ELISA inhibition test showed significant inhibitions by abalone as well as by common whelk. IgE-immunoblotting demonstrated three IgE-binding components (40, 71, 82 kDa), which were digested by simulated intestinal fluid and moderately digested by simulated gastric fluid, and the digestibility of allergens remained unchanged after thermal treatment. In conclusion, IgE-sensitization rate to common whelk was 4.9% in allergy patients. IgE-immunoblotting demonstrated three IgE-binding components, which were degraded by digestive enzymes. Further studies are needed to evaluate the clinical significance of the sensitized patients to common whelk.
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