Allerginicity of Parthenium hysterophorus

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Parthenium is a genus of basically the western hemisphere belonging to the family Asteraceae. It has been included in subtribe Ambrosiinae along with the well known and notorius genus Ambrosia (ragweed) and Iva (marsh elder). Parthenium hysterophorus is a ubiquitous annual weed native of the Gulf of Mexico region and West Indies but now disseminated in warm and semi arid subtropical regions of the United States and almost the whole of the Indian subcontinent. It occurs abundantly in the gulf coast regions from Texas to the southernmost point of Florida. It is stated that in 1956, a Parthenium hysterophorus 'reserve' was introduced from the gulf regions of U.S.A. to the Poona region in India.

Subsequently it has spread like a wild fire in other regions of India resulting in serious agricultural problems and a medical hazard as a major source of allergic dermatitis. The major offender is the Sesquiterpene lacton, Parthenin found throughout the plant body including the pollen. There are different views on the pollination mechanism in Parthenuim. Pollination has been described as entomorphilous where insects are attracted to the pollen-containing disc flowers by glandular hair secretions. The plants produce an enormous quantity of pollen (an average 624 million /plant). The pollen are carried away at least for short distances in clusters of 600 to 800 grains. The pollen become airborne to great heights in significant amounts either as individual grains or in clumps (Sitaramaiah et al, 1981 and Agashe et al., 1987). Sitaramaiah et al., have noted that Parthenium hysterophorus pollen could be a source of nasobronchial allergy. A clinical survey conducted by Sitaramaiah and co workers in Bangalore, India on 71 patients suffering from seasonal and perennial nasobronchial allergy indicated that 40% of them developed symptoms during July to December, i.e., at a time of maximum incidence of pollen of Parthenium hysterophorus in the atmosphere.

In another research investigation from Bangalore Rao et al, (1985) and Uthyashankar et al. (1985) performed extensive studies on the allerginicity of Parthenium hysterophorus in patients. Both skin tests and radio allegro solvent test (RAST) were performed on patients with classic symptoms of allergic rhinitis during July and December. These classical studies demonstrated that 34% of patients with classic allergic rhinits and 12% of patients with asthma were sensitive to extracts of Parthenium hysterophorus pollen.

Similar studies were carried out by collecting sera from 18 patients selected on the basis of symptoms of allergic rhinitis or asthma related to the fall season and were shown to be reactive to Ambrosia species on the basis either skin testing or RAST.

The pollen of Parthenium hysterophorus, Ambrosia and Quercus sp. were suspended in 10 mm phosphate buffer, ph 7.2 and gently stirred at a ratio of 1 gm of pollen to 10 ml of buffer for 48 hours at 4°C Later, the pollen extracts were classified by a combination of filtration and centrifugation.

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