Further Reading

Sweet chestnut f299

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Code: t206
Latin name: Castanea sativa
Source material: Pollen
Family: Fagaceae
Common names: Chestnut, European chestnut , Sweet chestnut

See also: Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) f299

Not to be confused with horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) t203

Allergen Exposure

The chestnut belongs to the Fagaceae family, which consists of 3 important genera: beech (Fagus), chestnut (Castanea), and oak (Quercus).

The European chestnut in its natural form is a large, spreading, deciduous tree, growing to over 30 m tall. Mature leaves are 10-20 cm long, 3-7 cm broad, and have between 6 and 20 bristles on each of the deeply serrated margins. Both female and male flowers are borne on the current season’s shoots, in early summer to midsummer. The trees are cold-hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as -25°C when dormant. The fruit (chestnut) is a spiny husk containing 2 or 3 nuts. In the USA, the chestnut pollen season extends from May to July. Chestnut trees are mainly insect-pollinated.

Several edible species of chestnut are grown around the world, the 4 main species being Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima), European or Spanish or sweet chestnut (C. sativa), Japanese chestnut (C. crenata), and American chestnut (C. dentata, most of which have been destroyed through a blight). The nuts of all of these species are used as food, in similar fashion (about which, see below).

Chestnut trees are cultivated in groves for fruit, and in coppices for wood. Up to 500 000 tonnes of chestnuts are produced each year around the world, with the biggest proportion coming from the northern hemisphere. Chestnuts are consumed fresh, boiled, grilled or preserved in sugar (iced chestnuts). Chestnut flour is also utilised. The tannin and the very hard wood of the tree are also used.

See sweet chestnut f299 for allergen information on these nuts.

European chestnut pollen has been shown to be present in honey, and may thereby contribute to allergic reactions. (1)

Allergen Description

In an examination of sera from 14 patients with established allergy to pollen of the European chestnut, 13/14 (92%) showed IgE binding to a 22 kDa protein in European chestnut pollen extract, 2/14 (14%) displayed additional binding to a 14 kDa protein, and 1/14 (7%) bound only to the 14 kDa protein. The 22 kDa protein was characterised and is now known as Cas s 1. The 14 kDa protein was identified as a profilin. (2)

The following allergens have therefore been identified to date:

  • Cas s 1, a 22 kDa protein, a major allergen and a Bet v 1 homologue (group 1 Fagales-related protein). (2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Cas s Profilin, a 14 kDa protein, a profilin. (2)

Ninety-two per cent of 14 patients with established allergy to pollen of the European chestnut tree demonstrated specific IgE to the profilin allergen in this pollen. Fourteen per cent displayed additional binding to a 14 kDa protein in the extract, and 1 (7%) bound only to this 14 kDa protein. (2)

Potential Cross-Reactivity

The chestnut belongs to the Fagaceae family, which consists of 3 important genera: beech (Fagus), chestnut (Castanea), and oak (Quercus). Extensive cross-reactivity between the different individual species of the Fagaceae family could be expected. (5, 6, 7)

Cas s 1 shows significant amino acid sequence similarity, and antigenically is closely related to the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1. (3) Cross-reactivity with other Bet v 1-related allergens occurs, including with birch tree.

Profilin from pollen of the European chestnut would be expected to cross-react with other plants containing profilin. (2, 8)

Clinical Experience

IgE mediated reactions

IgE-mediated allergy (resulting in hay fever and asthma) to pollen of the European chestnut represents an important cause of pollinosis in Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean areas. (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)

Skin-prick tests to chestnut pollen were positive in 17/47 patients with seasonal symptoms of allergy in a study conducted in Paris. Eight patients had total IgE levels above 300 kU/l, 15 were found to have IgE antibodies to the pollen, and 14 were positive on nasal provocation testing. (10) In the southern part of Switzerland (Canton Ticino), where chestnut pollens represent about 30% of the airborne pollens, 37% of 503 patients with allergic rhinitis were sensitised to European chestnut pollen. (9)

A study examined the impact of different trees on asthma, and the association between daily hospitalisations for asthma and daily concentrations of different tree pollens in 10 large Canadian cities, and found that as a result of an interquartile increase in daily tree pollen concentration, percentage increases in daily hospitalisation for asthma were 2.32% for the group containing Quercus and Castanea. (16)

In a study of 210 patients with a diagnosis of pollinosis who attended an allergy clinic based in Plasencia, Spain, a low prevalence of sensitisation to Chestnut tree of 7.1% was demonstrated. Sensitisation to other pollens was far more prevalent: Dactylis glomerata, 80%; Olea europea, 72%; Fraxinus excelsior, 68%; Plantago lanceolata, 63%; Chenopodium album, 61%; Robinia pseudoacacia, 49%; Artemisia vulgaris, 44%; Platanus acerifolia, 37%; Parietaria judaica, 36%; Populus nigra, 32%; Betula alba, 28%; Quercus ilex, 21%, Alnus glutinosa, 21%; and Cupressus arizonica, 8%. Of the 15 patients sensitised to chestnut pollen, 14 had seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis and asthma. Ten patients had IgE antibodies to chestnut pollen. Chestnut pollen was shown to be present in this area in large amounts from the 23rd to the 28th week of the year. (15)

Chestnut wood has also been shown to cause occupational asthma in wood workers. (17)

Other reactions

Allergic reactions often occur following ingestion of the fruit (nut) of the chestnut tree. See sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) f299.

Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman,


  1. Bauer L, Kohlich A, Hirschwehr R, Siemann U, Ebner H, Scheiner O, Kraft D, Ebner C. Food allergy to honey: pollen or bee products? Characterization of allergenic proteins in honey by means of immunoblotting. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1996;97(1 Pt 1):65-73.
  2. Hirschwehr R, Jager S, Horak F, Ferreira F, Valenta R, Ebner C, Kraft D, Scheiner O. Allergens from birch pollen and pollen of the European chestnut share common epitopes. Clin Exp Allergy 1993;23(9):755-61.
  3. Kos T, Hoffmann-Sommergruber K, Ferreira F, Hirschwehr R, Ahorn H, Horak F, Jager S, Sperr W, Kraft D, Scheiner O. Purification, characterization and N-terminal amino acid sequence of a new major allergen from European chestnut pollen--Cas s 1. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 1993;196(3):1086-92.
  4. International Union of Immunological Societies Allergen Nomenclature: IUIS official list Accessed January 2013.
  5. Hauser M, Asam C, Himly M, Palazzo P, Voltolini S, Montanari C, Briza P, Bernardi ML, Mari A, Ferreira F, Wallner M. Bet v 1-like pollen allergens of multiple Fagales species can sensitize atopic individuals. Clin Exp Allergy 2011;41(12):1804-14.
  6. Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09.
  7. Eriksson NE, Wihl JA, Arrendal H, Strandhede SO. Tree pollen allergy. III. Cross reactions based on results from skin prick tests and the RAST in hay fever patients. A multi-centre study. Allergy 1987;42(3):205-14.
  8. Steinman HA, Lee S. Concomitant clinical sensitivity (CCS) and cross-reactivity. ACI International 2003;15(1):18-29.
  9. Gilardi S, Torricelli R, Peeters AG, Wuthrich B. Pollinosis in Canton Ticino. A prospective study in Locarno. [German] Schweiz Med Wochenschr 1994;124(42):1841-7.
  10. Laurent J, Lafay M, Lattanzi B, Le Gall C, Sauvaget J. Evidence for chestnut pollinosis in Paris. Clin Exp Allergy 1993;23(1):39-43.
  11. Sutra JP, Ickovic MR, De Luca H, Peltre G, David B. Chestnut pollen counts related to patients pollinosis in Paris. Experientia Suppl 1987;51:113-7.
  12. Charpin D, Vervloet D. New aero-allergens. Interaction between allergens and the environment. [French] Bull Acad Natl Med 1997;181(8):1551-61.
  13. Frankland AW, D'Amato G. Evidence of chestnut pollinosis in Paris. [Letter] Clin Exp Allergy 1994;24(3):294.
  14. D'Amato G, Cecchi L, Bonini S, Nunes C, Annesi-Maesano I, Behrendt H, Liccardi G, Popov T, van Cauwenberge P. Allergenic pollen and pollen allergy in Europe. Allergy 2007;62(9):976-90.
  15. Cosmes Martín PM, Moreno Ancillo A, Domínguez Noche C, Gutiérrez Vivas A, Belmonte Soler J, Roure Nolla JM. Sensitization to Castanea sativa pollen and pollinosis in northern Extremadura (Spain). [Spanish] Allergol Immunopathol (Madr ) 2005;33(3):145-50.
  16. Dales RE, Cakmak S, Judek S, Coates F. Tree pollen and hospitalization for asthma in urban Canada. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2008;146(3):241-7.
  17. De Zotti R, Gubian F. Asthma and rhinitis in wooding workers. Allergy Asthma Proc 1996;17(4):199-203.
  18. Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09.


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