The giant Madagascar hissing-cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) as a source of antagonistic moulds: concerns arising from its use in a public setting

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SummaryCockroaches and their excreta have been linked to allergies and childhood asthma. The giant Madagascar hissing-cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa), heralded as an educational tool in classrooms, museums, zoos, is now available to the public as a children's pet raising health concerns. We provide a catalogue of potentially antagonistic moulds associated with this insect. Specimens were obtained from laboratories, classrooms, pet stores and private homes. Three different agar media were used to culture moulds from both internal and external cockroach surfaces. Pure cultures were obtained from hyphal tips excised by scalpel. A total of 14 mould taxa were obtained, mostly from external surfaces. The mycoflora was dominated by species of Rhizopus, Penicillium, Mucor, Trichoderma and Alternaria, and differed little among nymphs, adults, cast skins (exuviae) and faeces. A two-fold increase of Aspergillus niger isolates, however, was detected in exuviae and faeces. The mycoflora appeared to be equally distributed on the body regions in nymphs and adults alike. Most of the moulds recovered are common, well-known saprophytes with a prolific ability to produce asexual spores (e.g. conidia) when supplied with adequate moisture and an organic substrate (e.g. vegetable matter, pet food and exuviae). Cockroach rearing conditions thus serve as an ideal environment for mould growth and proliferation, and the subsequent use (handling) of these insects in a public forum increases the risk of inducing mould-related allergies in humans. Of special concern are moulds also capable of causing secondary infections (e.g. Rhizopus, Mucor, Aspergillus), gaining entry via open wounds and inhalation. This is mainly a point of public awareness aimed at individuals (especially children) prone to infections and allergies that might be exposed to this insect and/or its rearing conditions.

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