Volume 3 Supplement 3

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting (FAAM 2013): Abstracts

Open Access

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

  • KC Verhoeckx1, 2, 3,
  • S van Broekhoven4,
  • M Gaspari5,
  • SC de Hartog-Jager2, 3,
  • G de Jong1,
  • H Wichers6,
  • E van Hoffen2, 3,
  • G Houben1, 2, 3 and
  • AC Knulst2, 3
Clinical and Translational Allergy20133(Suppl 3):P48


Published: 25 July 2013


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.

Authors’ Affiliations

Dermatology/Allergology, University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU)
Utrecht Center for Food Allergy (UCFA)
Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University and Research Centre
Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale e Clinica, Università "Magna Græcia" di Catanzaro
Food & Biobased Research, Wageningen University and Research Centre


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


© Verhoeckx et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013

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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.