Deer epithelium

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Code: e216
Latin name: Dama dama
Source material: Epithelium
Family: Cervidae
Direct or indirect contact with animal allergens may cause sensitisation.

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution
Deer are ruminant mammals of the family Cervidae, native to most areas of the world outside of Australia, Africa south of the Sahara, and Antarctica, and now introduced almost worldwide. Widely divergent types are the tiny Andean Pudu, Elk, Caribou, Moose and Reindeer. Antlers, solid bony outgrowths of the skull, develop in the males of most species and are shed and renewed annually. Deer have a number of glands on their feet, legs, and faces; these are used in communication. The White-Tailed Deer that live in woodlands throughout the United States and in Central America and nothern South America were a source of food, buckskin, and other necessities for Native Americans and white settlers. Slaughter through the years nearly exterminated this Deer, but it is now restored in large numbers in the Eastern United States and to a lesser extent in the West. Old World Deer include the Red Deer, the Fallow Deer, and the Axis Deer.
Deer have considerable economic importance around the world. They are hunted for sport, for meat, and for their hides. Reindeer are important domestic animals in the far north. Several species have nearly been extirpated. A few others have been introduced far outside their natural ranges, often to the detriment of native species.
Deer occupy a wide range of habitats, from arctic tundras to tropical forests. Some Deer are solitary, but most live in herds that vary from a few individuals to many. Most species are browsers, but some include a substantial proportion of graze in their diets.
Deer allergens with the molecular mass of 110, 72, 60, 59, 45, 25, 22 and 21 kDa have been identified. The 22 and 25 kDa proteins were determined to be major allergens (1) (2). No allergens have been characterized to date.
In experiments using patient sera in specific IgE inhibition, IgE antibodies were directed to allergens common to pelt/hair/dander, urine, and serum. Pelt contained the most potent allergenic fractions (3).

Potential Cross-Reactivity

The 22 and 25 kDa allergens from Deer dander have been shown to be cross-reactive with the corresponding Cow allergens (1). Fallow Deer allergens and Horse allergen extracts were shown to be cross-reactive (4).

Clinical Experience

IgE mediated reactions
Exposure to Deer dander may result in asthma, occupational asthma, allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis and anaphylaxis (1, 4, 5). Allergic reactions occur mostly in hunters, farmers and hunting guides.
A 25-year-old housewife in Mexico City developed rhinitis and asthma following exposure to Fallow Deer in an animal park close to her home (4).
Urticaria, angioedema, and dyspnoea requiring epinephrine occurred in a 4-year-old boy following contact with Deer. He had had a mild reaction, after indirect exposure to the animal, 5 days prior to this episode of anaphylaxis. IgE-mediated tests were positive for Deer and cow by both selective skin-prick method and RAST results (6).
Deer dander can induce occupational asthma through IgE-mediated mechanisms as reported in a farmer raising Deer. Skin-specific IgE elicited positive reactions to dander extracts from Goat, Sheep, Camel, and Cow as well as to Deer dander extract (1). Hunters are also susceptible to developing allergic symptoms following contact with these animals (3).
A postal questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 2,500 farmers throughout New Zealand. It was found that asthma prevalence was higher for Horse breeders/groomers, Pig farmers, Poultry farmers, and those working with Oats. Hay fever was significantly higher in Deer and crop farmers, and farmers working with Horses and Goats; eczema was higher for Goat and Deer farmers (7).
Other reactions
Contact urticaria from Roe Deer meat and hair has been reported (8).
A boilermaker who engraved Deer bone (scrimshaw) as his artistic avocation developed recurrent anaphylaxis while scraping Deer bones (9).
Deer ked (Lipoptena cervi L.), a haematophagous louse fly of Deer, also attacks man and can cause persistent pruritic papules (10).
Lyme disease, from which severe neurological, muscular, cardiac and other damage can result, is carried by a spirochete transmitted by the Deer Tick (Ixodes sarcoptii), which is prone to attaching to humans in grassy and woodland areas.
Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman,


  1. Nahm DH, Park JW, Hong CS. Occupational asthma due to deer dander. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 1996;76(5):423-6
  2. Spitzauer S, Valenta R, Muhl S, Rumpold H, Ebner H, Ebner C. Characterization of allergens from deer: cross-reactivity with allergens from cow dander. Clin Exp Allergy 1997;27(2):196-200
  3. Gillespie DN, Dahlberg MJ, Yunginger JW. Inhalant allergy to wild animals (deer and elk). Ann Allergy 1985;55(2):122-5
  4. Huwyler T, Wuthrich B. A case of fallow deer allergy. Cross-reactivity between fallow deer and horse allergy. Allergy 1992;47(5):574-5
  5. Gillespie DN. Anaphylaxis to deer dander. [Editorial] Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2000;85(5):334
  6. Amrol DJ, Georgitis JW, Dunagan DP. Anaphylaxis to deer dander in a child: a case report. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2000;85(5):372-3
  7. Kimbell-Dunn M, Bradshaw L, Slater T, Erkinjuntti-Pekkanen R, Fishwick D, Pearce N. Asthma and allergy in New Zealand farmers. Am J Ind Med 1999;35(1):51-7
  8. Geyer E, Kranke B, Derhaschnig J, Aberer W. Contact urticaria from roe deer meat and hair. Contact Dermatitis 1998;39(1):34
  9. Patterson R, Ganz MA, Roberts M. Anaphylaxis and asthma in a scrimshander due to deer bone dust. Ann Allergy 1991;67:529-532
  10. Rantanen T, Reunala T, et al. Persistent pruritic papules from deer ked bites. Acta Derm Venereol 1982;62(4):307-11


As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.