WHO/IUIS Allergen Nomenclature: Providing a common language

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Abstract

A systematic nomenclature for allergens originated in the early 1980s, when few protein allergens had been described. A group of scientists led by Dr. David G. Marsh developed a nomenclature based on the Linnaean taxonomy, and further established the World Health Organization/International Union of Immunological Societies (WHO/IUIS) Allergen Nomenclature Sub-Committee in 1986. Its stated aim was to standardize the names given to the antigens (allergens) that caused IgE-mediated allergies in humans. The Sub-Committee first published a revised list of allergen names in 1986, which continued to grow with rare publications until 1994. Between 1994 and 2007 the database was a text table online, then converted to a more readily updated website. The allergen list became the Allergen Nomenclature database (www.allergen.org), which currently includes approximately 880 proteins from a wide variety of sources. The Sub-Committee includes experts on clinical and molecular allergology. They review submissions of allergen candidates, using evidence-based criteria developed by the Sub-Committee. The review process assesses the biochemical analysis and the proof of allergenicity submitted, and aims to assign allergen names prior to publication. The Sub-Committee maintains and revises the database, and addresses continuous challenges as new “omics” technologies provide increasing data about potential new allergens. Most journals publishing information on new allergens require an official allergen name, which involves submission of confidential data to the WHO/IUIS Allergen Nomenclature Sub-Committee, sufficient to demonstrate binding of IgE from allergic subjects to the purified protein.

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