Background: Two cases of allergic (IgE-mediated) reaction to bovine collagen are described. Both patients developed conjunctival oedema in response to the topical application of highly purified bovine collagen to the eye during opthalmic surgery (corneal shields and catgut suture material). One patient developed periocular angioedema and angioedema of the throat after the ingestion of bovine collagen in the form of gelatin-containing foods.
Methods: The presence of allergen-specific IgE was evaluated by skin prick testing with collagen-derived products, and by topical challenge with a highly purified bovine collagen-derived corneal shield.
Results: In both patients, application of collagen to the eye reproduced the original subconjunctival oedema. In one patient, skin testing with purified and crude extracts of bovine collagen in the form of a corneal shield, catgut suture material and edible gelatin demonstrated evidence of collagen-specific IgE.
Conclusions: Clinical reactions to collagen are rare. Nevertheless, patients with a history of allergic reactions to bovine collagen-derived products should be investigated because of the widespread use of collagen-derived therapeutic devices, the potential for immunological cross-reactivity with dietary collagen (gelatin) and the potential for anaphylaxis.