Is mealworm or shrimp allergy indicative for food allergy to insects?

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The growing world population is a key driver for the exploration of sustainable protein sources to ensure food security. Mealworm and other insects are promising candidates. Previously we found that shrimp allergic patients are at risk for mealworm allergy, and that mealworm can induce a primary allergy [3]. This study set out to investigate the allergenic potential of edible insects, suggested for human consumption by agencies such as WHO/FAO, in both the shrimp (potentially cross-reactive) and primary mealworm allergic population. The following insects were studied: mealworm, house cricket, giant mealworm, lesser mealworm, African grasshopper, large wax moth, and black soldier fly.

Methods and results

Fifteen shrimp (mealworm sensitized or allergic) patients and four primary mealworm allergic subjects, who participated in previous studies, were included. All shrimp allergic patients were sensitized to multiple insects with similar response profiles for all insects tested. Primary mealworm allergic patients, showed IgE binding to proteins from only a few insects on immunoblot, although basophil activation test was positive for all tested insects.


Shrimp allergic patients are most likely at risk of food allergy to mealworm and other insects. Primary mealworm allergy does not mean subjects are likely to react to all insects.

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