What does peanut allergy have to do with Covid?

American scientists have found a surprising link between food allergies and Covid. Here’s what you need to know

Eugenio Spagnuolo

– Milan

For those who suffer from it, food allergies are no small problem. And a constant worry when eating out: allergens, in fact, can also hide in unsuspected dishes. But maybe there is some positive news: according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology being allergic to foods such as peanuts or shellfish could act as a defense against COVID-19.

Allergies that protect against Covid: the study

In fact, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (USA) have found that some food allergies seem to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus by about half (but without completely excluding it). The study, part of a larger research (HEROS – Human Epidemiology and Response to SARS-CoV-2) monitored over 4,000 people in 1,400 households during the pandemic and took place in 12 different cities in the United States between May 2020 and February 2021. All the volunteers had a swab at home every 2 weeks and each week described their state of health in detail. By monitoring this data, the scientists found that volunteers with a food allergy (diagnosed by the doctor) were half as likely to contract SARS-CoV-2.

Do allergies protect cells from COVID?

To understand what would protect individuals with food allergies from Covid, specific antibody levels were analyzed.immunoglobulin E (IgE). These are antibodies that play an important role in allergies: Researchers suspect that type 2 inflammation, typical of allergic reactions, reduces the amount of a protein called ACE2 receptor on the surface of human cells. But the ACE2 receptor plays a key role in Covid infections: virus cells attach to this particular protein to access a patient’s cellular functions, producing more virus and making patients sicker. So, given that allergies appear to wipe out most ACE2 receptors on cells, the study found that this would make it more difficult (but not impossible) for SARS-CoV-2 to spread to those allergic to certain foods such as peanuts.

In reality there may also be other reasons why food allergy sufferers seem more resistant to Covid: Researchers noted, for example, that volunteers with food allergies went to restaurants less frequently than their allergy-free counterparts and no worries about what’s on the menu. And that gave them less of a chance to get in touch with someone who has Covid-19. So it might not even be due to the allergy itself.

Weight is a risk factor for COVID

The study then found further evidence that would link obesity to a higher risk of infection. Both being overweight and having a higher body mass index (BMI) would contribute to an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. For every 10-point increase in BMI, the volunteers’ risk of infection increased by 9%. And overweight or obese participants had a 41 percent higher risk of infection than those with a healthy weight. But before taking both this statement and the link between food allergies and protection from Covid as definitive, it is necessary to wait a little longer, as the well-known admitted. Anthony Faucidirector of the NIAID that sponsored the study, according to which: “The association between food allergy and risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, as well as between body mass index and this risk, deserve further investigation.”



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