, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 241-249
Date: 23 Nov 2012

Food Allergy in Africa: Myth or Reality?

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Abstract

Food allergy has been traditionally perceived as being rare in Africa. However, the prevalence of other allergic manifestations such as asthma and atopic dermatitis continue to rise in the higher-income African countries. Since the food allergy epidemic in westernized countries has lagged behind that of allergic respiratory conditions, we hypothesize that food allergy is increasing in Africa. This article systematically reviews the evidence for food allergy in Africa, obtained through searching databases including PubMed, Medline, MD Consult, and scholarly Google. Articles are divided into categories based on strength of methodological diagnosis of food allergy. Information was found for 11 African countries: Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe. Most studies reflect sensitization to food or self-reported symptoms. However, a few studies had more stringent diagnostic testing that is convincing for food allergy, mostly conducted in South Africa. Apart from the foods that commonly cause allergy in westernized countries, other regionally significant or novel food allergens may include pineapple (Ghana), okra (Nigeria), and mopane worm (Botswana). Food allergy is definitely an emerging disease in Africa and resources need to be diverted to study, diagnose, treat, and prevent this important disease.