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Jellyfish anaphylaxis: A wide spectrum of sensitization routes

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Recent studies demonstrated that, in the past few years, the number of jellyfish species is increasing worldwide; this increase can be explained by environmental and climatic reasons. Contacts with jellyfish can cause acute and chronic effects, including allergic reactions. Although anaphylaxis caused by jellyfish is a rare event, repetitive stings during bathing as well as marine sports and job activities represent important risk factors that can increase the probability of sensitization. Recently, it was also pointed out the possibility of anaphylaxis caused by jellyfish ingestion. In these cases, the sensitization could also be related to previous stings. In cases in which there is no history of jellyfish contact or ingestion, it has been hypothesized that there is a sensitization to an unknown cross-reactive antigen.


The purpose of this work was to collect and review published studies and cases of anaphylaxis associated with jellyfish.


We performed a medical literature data base search, which included English language articles published until September 2019, by using the key words “jellyfish” associated with “anaphylaxis” or “anaphylactic shock.”


The results of our research showed that dangerous reactions can be caused both by contact and ingestion. Moreover, the latest changes in food habits, life style, and globalization could lead to a more frequent exposure to jellyfish both by contact and ingestion, and, consequently, to a higher probability of sensitization.


Prospective studies and well-structured research are needed to better understand all the potential immunologic elements of jellyfish, to clarify its role in sensitization, and to avoid possible dangerous allergic reactions caused by cross-reactivity.
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Keywords: allergy; anaphylactic shock; anaphylaxis; cnidaria; contact; food; global warming; jellyfish; sensitization; sting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: From the School and Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Messina, Messina, Italy, and the 2: Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania

Publication date: May 1, 2020

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  • 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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