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Fauna, Flora, Fowl, and Fruit: Effects of the Columbian Exchange on the Allergic Response of New and Old World Inhabitants

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The Columbian Exchange has been described as "the most important event in human history since the end of the Ice Age." This interchange of many species of fauna, flora, fowl, and fruits resulted in new encounters between New and Old World inhabitants. Prominent among these were manifestations of allergic reactions to many of the new substances. Little imagination is required to reflect on what these substances added to or detracted from both the New and Old World lifestyles, habits, and diets. The numerous peas, vegetable seeds, and grasses, such as sugarcane, introduced during Columbus' later voyages, made an enormous difference in the lives of New World inhabitants, as did the introduction of the cow and horse, not to mention substances such as coconuts and bananas, that are now intimately associated with the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

This article focuses on some the more important exchange substances and emphasizes many forms of anaphylaxis: asthma, food allergy, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, chronic bronchitis, rhinitis, serum sickness, and other conditions that developed in both New and Old World inhabitants. To mention only a few examples, the Europeans introduced to the New World potential dangers such as honeybees (anaphylaxis). It also gave the New World the cow and the horse (serum sickness), which became the constant companion of Columbus' Indians and the American cowboy. It gave the Italians their thick red gravy, and the New World its pizza (food allergy), The Caribbean received bananas and coconuts and the New World embraced coffee (caffeine addiction), On the other hand, the exchange also caused Europeans of begin puffing away on tobacco!
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1992

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma and by having the potential to directly impact the quality of patient care. AAP welcomes the submission of original works including peer-reviewed original research and clinical trial results. Additionally, as the official journal of the Eastern Allergy Conference (EAC), AAP will publish content from EAC poster sessions as well as review articles derived from EAC lectures.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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