15.2.3. Insect allergenicity

Insects and other arthropods are often implicated in allergic disease, which occurs when exposure to some arthropod allergen (a moderate-sized molecular weight chemical component, usually a protein) triggers excessive immunological reaction in some exposed people or animals. Those who handle insects in their occupations, such as in entomological rearing facilities, tropical fish food production, or research laboratories, frequently develop allergic reactions to one or more of a range of insects. Mealworms (beetle larvae of Tenebrio spp.), bloodworms (larvae of Chironomus spp.), locusts, and blow flies have all been implicated. Stored products infested with astigmatic mites give rise to allergic diseases such as baker’s and grocer’s itch. The most significant arthropod-mediated allergy arises through the fecal material of house-dust mites (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and D. farinae), which are ubiquitous and abundant in houses throughout many regions of the world. Exposure to naturally occurring allergenic arthropods and their products may be underestimated, although the role of house-dust mites in allergy is now well recognized.

The venomous and urticating insects discussed above can cause greater danger when some sensitized (previously exposed and allergy-susceptible) individuals are exposed again, as anaphylactic shock is possible, with death occurring if untreated. Individuals showing indications of allergic reaction to hymenopteran stings must take appropriate precautions, including allergen avoidance and carrying adrenaline (epinephrine).

Chapter 15