Skip to main content


House dust mite (Derp 10) and crustacean allergic patients may be at risk when consuming food containing mealworm proteins

Article metrics

  • 906 Accesses

  • 5 Citations


Due to the imminent growth of the world population, shortage of protein sources for human consumption will arise in the near future. Alternative and sustainable protein sources (e.g. insects and algae) are now being explored for the production of food and feed. In this project the safety of mealworm (Tenebrio molitor L.) proteins for human consumption was tested according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) [1] guidelines for allergenicity risk assessment of genetically modified organisms (GMO).


Different mealworm protein fractions (soluble and insoluble) were prepared, characterized, and tested for cross-reactivity using IgE from patients with an inhalation or food allergy to closely related species (house dust mite and crustacean) according to the phylogenetic tree, using immunoblotting and indirect basophil activation. Furthermore, the stability was investigated using an in vitro pepsin digestion test.


IgE from both house dust mite and crustacean allergic patients cross-reacted with proteins in mealworm. This cross-reactivity was functional, as shown by the induction of basophil activation. The cross-reactive proteins were identified as tropomyosin and arginine kinase, which are well known allergens in lobster, shrimp and house dust mite. These proteins were mildly stable in the pepsin stability test.


Based on these cross-reactivity studies, house dust mite and crustacean allergic patients may be at risk when consuming food containing mealworm proteins.

Disclosure of interest

None declared.


  1. 1.

    ,: EFSA Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms. EFSA Journal. 2010, 8: 1700-

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to KC Verhoeckx.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article


  • Arginine
  • Food Allergy
  • Protein Fraction
  • Human Consumption
  • Stability Test