James Cook University researchers are warning those with a taste for crocodile to remain cautious as the meat could trigger dangerous reactions to those with fish allergies.
JCU's Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine Dr Thimo Ruethers and a JCU Tropical Futures Institute research fellow in human health and ageing based in Singapore led the study in collaboration with other researchers.
"Fish allergy affects up to 3 per cent of the general population and frequently results in life-threatening anaphylaxis," Dr Ruethers said.
"Crocodilians are known to be healthy and alternative protein sources, and alligator and crocodile meat is commonly eaten throughout the world and particularly across the tropics, where many crocodile farms are located."
Dr Ruethers said recent reports of life-threatening anaphylaxis following the consumption of crocodile meat had been associated with a major fish allergen; a protein triggering a cascade of immunological responses, which can result in an allergic reaction.
Immunological reactions to crocodile meat were examined in 77 children who had immediate allergic reactions to fish.
"Fish-allergic patients underwent allergen skin prick testing to crocodile and various types of fish," Dr Ruethers said.
"Skin reactions and comprehensive blood analyses then showed that the vast majority, about 70 per cent of patients, would likely have an allergic reaction when eating crocodile."
Dr Ruethers said this is the first reptile allergen discovered, suggesting that crocodile meat can trigger allergic reactions in those allergic to fish.
"We have now coined the term 'fish-crocodile syndrome': fish-allergic individuals may be at risk of serious allergic reactions upon consumption of crocodilian meat due to them being highly reactive to crocodile parvalbumin," he said.
"This generally harmless protein is now the very first reptile allergen registered with the World Health Organisation."
Researchers reiterated fish-allergic individuals should avoid the consumption of alligator and crocodile meat unless tolerance is confirmed by medical means.
The study comes ahead of Food Allergy Week in Australia from May 22 to 28.
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