House dust mite (Der p 10) and crustacean allergic patients may react to food containing Yellow mealworm proteins

Verhoeckx, K.; Broekhoven, S. van; Hartog-Jager, C.F. den; Gaspari, M.; Jong, G.A.H. de; Wichers, H.J.; Hoffen, E. van; Houben, G.F.; Knulst, A.C.


Scope. 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) are being explored for the production of food and feed. In this project, the safety of Yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor L.) for human consumption was tested using approaches as advised by the European Food Safety Authority for allergenicity risk assessment. Methods and results. Different Yellow mealworm protein fractions were prepared, characterised, and tested for cross-reactivity using sera from patients with an inhalation or food allergy to biologically related species (House dust mite (HDM) and crustaceans) by immunoblotting and basophil activation. Furthermore, the stability was investigated using an in vitro pepsin digestion test. IgE from HDM- and crustacean allergic patients cross-reacted with Yellow mealworm proteins. This cross-reactivity was functional, as shown by the induction of basophil activation. The major cross-reactive proteins were identified as tropomyosin and arginine kinase, which are well known allergens in arthropods. These proteins were moderately stable in the pepsin stability test. Conclusion. Based on these cross-reactivity studies, there is a realistic possibility that HDM- and crustacean allergic patients may react to food containing Yellow mealworm proteins.