UAlg researchers win ANI award for hypoallergenic fish project

Researchers Pedro Rodrigues, Cláudia Raposo and Denise Schrama won the BfK 2020 (Born from Knowledge) award. The prize was awarded by the National Innovation Agency (ANI), within the scope of the Food & Nutrition Awards, on 18th November. 

Allyfish aims to produce a hypoallergenic fish that is tolerable to food allergy sufferers, through a multidisciplinary approach, from production to the final consumer. "The intention of this project is to make this important source of protein accessible, which causes allergic reactions in 2% to 5% of the adult population worldwide, with a special focus on children and young people", said researcher Pedro Rodrigues, speaking to Lusa. 

It is known that 95% of allergies to fish are due to the presence of a certain protein - b-parvalbumin - which is present in the muscle of these animals. To decrease the existence of this protein, researchers introduced specific molecules, such as EDTA, into the diet of aquaculture fish (goldfish and sea bass) and also seek to change the three-dimensional shape of the protein, removing calcium and making it practically non-allergenic. "We put molecules in the fish feed that will extract calcium from the environment. Without it, the molecule cannot be formed and takes a form that is less allergenic", explained Pedro Rodrigues.  

Tests carried out on patients allergic to fish showed satisfactory results since they showed a 50% reduction in allergic reactions and in the other 30% (of patients) displayed a reduction in the degree of allergenicity. The tasting tests carried out in partnership with the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere (IPMA) demonstrated that there was no change either in quality or flavor, and that the amount of calcium present in the fish muscle is within the limits established for human consumption. 

Despite these results, the research project will continue to be developed, as the team intends to understand how it will be possible to increase this percentage and reduce the degree of allergy, reaching a fish that is 100% hypoallergenic.