Crossreactivity of birch allergic patients to soy allergens

In this project we will study the mechanisms by which birch-allergic patients can react to soy allergens, the effect of birch immunotherapy on the soy allergies, and the effects that food processing and immunotherapy have on the underlying disease mechanisms.


Allergies have been sharply increasing worldwide over the last 50 years. Although specific numbers are limited due to underdiagnosis, it is estimated that currently around 10-30% of the Chinese population is affected by allergic diseases, including asthma, hayfever, food allergy and eczema. Understanding the mechanisms by which the immune system reacts to allergens is the key to improve therapeutic approaches to allergies.

Soy proteins are high-quality proteins characterized by a high nutritional value, that are therefore widely used as protein rich plant-based dairy alternatives. Although these products are tolerated well by most of the consumers they are not safe for people with soy and peanut allergy - but also often in patients with birch pollen allergy. The latter is based on the food-pollen syndrome and is caused by cross-reactive IgE antibodies between the birch allergen Bet v1 and soy allergen Gly m4. This is the reason of an adverse reaction in birch pollen allergic patients after consumption of mildly processed soy-based drinks.

Project description

In this project ways of reduction of soy allergenicity in patients with birch-soy cross-reactive allergy is studied with the following main research questions:

  1. Which food processing methods can reduce the allergenicity of soy in birch pollen allergic patients?
  2. What is the clinical effect of birch-specific allergen immunotherapy on soy allergenicity?
  3. What is the function and relevance of allergen-specific IgG(4) antibodies in modulating the adaptive and innate immune system?