Latin name: Meleagris gallopavo
Source material: Feathers
Common names: Turkey
Direct or indirect contact with bird allergens frequently causes sensitisation. Bird allergens are major components of house dust.
The Turkey is a New World variety of the pheasant. The domesticated variety is bred mainly for its meat, a traditional holiday dish in the United States. Turkeys are conspicuous for their tail plumage, sometimes carried in a fan-like display like that of peacocks, but in more muted colours. It is estimated that Turkeys have approximately 3500 feathers at maturity.
Wild Turkeys are still abundant in parts of North America, and are hunted for sport. Domesticated Turkeys, though sometimes kept as pets or ornamental animals, are usually raised in large commercial settings. Breeders as well as workers in the Turkey food processing industry are examples of groups with high risk of exposure. Other examples of exposure areas are pillows made with Turkey down, arts and crafts that include Turkey feathers, and wing feathers used in fletching arrows.
No allergens have yet been characterised.
In general, feathers have been reported to cause allergic asthma and rhinitis and possibly also atopic dermatitis. In a study reporting sensitivity to feathers, bird serum, excrement, egg yolk, Hen´s egg-white and Chicken meat, it was found that sensitisation was acquired through the inhalation of bird components (1).
Laboratory tests found specific IgE to feathers, livetin, Hen´s egg-white and yolk in these patients.
Results from Kilpöe et al. suggest that true feather allergy is rare and that some of the positive reactions in skin-prick tests to feather extracts are probably caused by Mite allergens present in feathers (2).
Hypersensitivity lung disease has been reported in the Turkey raising industry (3).
This disease is also known as extrinsic allergic alveolitis, Bird Fancier's Lung and Farmer's Lungand is a disease of inflammation of the lung parenchyma in the terminal bronchioles and alveoli. Symptoms may start soon after exposure to bird allergens or after many years, and may include breathlessness, cough, occasional chills, and fever. Death may also result.
Clinical allergy to commercial feather products is less common than usually thought, as a result of the removal of dust, washing, and drying at 125oC. The allergens derived from unrefined feathers include bird serum proteins, bird droppings, and feather Mites (2).
- Wyss M, Huwyler T, Wüthrich B. "Bird-egg" und "egg-bird syndrome" (Bird-egg and egg-bird syndrome). Allergologie 1991;14:275-278
- Kilpiö K, Mäkinen-Kiljunen S, Haahtela T, Hannuksela M. Allergy to feathers. Allergy 1998;53(2):159-164
- Boyer RS, Klock LE, Schmidt CD, Hyland L, Maxwell K, Gardner RM, Renzetti AD Jr. Hypersensitivity lung disease in the Turkey raising industry. Am Rev Respir Dis 1974;109(6):630-5