By Allergen Bureau

What is Kounis Syndrome? 

Kounis syndrome is a rare condition that occurs when an allergic reaction triggers a heart attack or other heart problems. While previously thought to be a rare condition, it is now being more commonly identified as the cause of sudden cardiac death, heart attack and other acute cardiac events in people that do not have a previous history of heart disease. 

First described in 1991, Kounis syndrome encompasses a variety of cardiovascular signs and symptoms associated with mast cell activation in the setting of allergic or hypersensitivity and anaphylactic reactions. It can manifest as coronary vasospasm, coronary, or in-stent thrombosis, and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) with plaque rupture.  

Various medications as well as foods including fish, shellfish, mushroom, kiwi, and rice pudding have previously been implicated in cases of Kounis syndrome. A recent publication presents what is believed to be the first documented case of Kounis syndrome as the result of an allergy to banana.  

The symptoms of Kounis syndrome can vary depending on the severity of the allergic reaction. They may include chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and light-headedness. In some cases, Kounis syndrome can be fatal. 

There is no specific treatment for Kounis syndrome. However, prompt treatment of the allergic reaction can help to prevent a heart attack. Treatment may include the use of antihistamines, steroids, and adrenaline. 

Reference: Reinhold et al. A Heart Gone Bananas: Allergy-Induced Coronary Vasospasm due to Banana (Kounis Syndrome). Case reports in Immunology. Vol. 2023 DOI: 10.1155/2023/5987123. Open Access.