Glycans and glycan-specific IgE in clinical and molecular allergology: Sensitization, diagnostics, and clinical symptoms

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Glycan-specific IgE antibodies cross-react with highly similar or even identical carbohydrate structures on a variety of different natural allergens, the so-called cross-reactive carbohydrate determinants (CCDs). In clinical practice CCDs often interfere with the specificity of in vitro allergy diagnostics, thus impairing allergy therapy decisions for individual patients. Strikingly, these IgE antibodies directed against CCDs often do not cause clinically relevant allergy symptoms. On the other hand, the IgE-binding glycan allergen galactose-α-(1,3)-galactose (α-Gal) is associated with IgE-mediated delayed anaphylaxis in meat allergy. The reason for this discrepancy is not known. The discovery of α-Gal stimulated new discussions and investigations regarding the relevance of anti-glycan IgE for allergic diseases. In this review the effect of glycans and glycan-specific IgE on sensitization to allergens and allergy diagnosis is described. Because parasite infections elicit a similar immunologic environment as allergic diseases, the association of glycan-specific antibodies against parasite glycoproteins with glycan structures on allergens is discussed.

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