Edible insects are considered as a promising and sustainable alternative protein source for humans, although risk assessments, with particular reference to the allergic potential of insect proteins, are required. Considering that insects are likely to be consumed after processing, it is crucial to assess how processing can influence allergenicity. In our study, we investigated how boiling and frying affect the IgE cross-recognition of proteins from five edible insects (mealworm, buffalo worm, silkworm, cricket and grasshopper). We considered three groups of Italian patients allergic to shrimps and to house dust mites, who had never consumed insects before and two subjects with occupational allergy and food sensitization to mealworm. Our data suggest that thermal processing may change the solubility of proteins, thereby resulting in a protein shift from water-soluble fractions to water-insoluble fractions. Immunoblot and LC-MS/MS analyses have shown that tropomyosin may play an important role as a cross-allergen for house dust mite and shrimp allergic patients, while larval cuticle protein seems to play a major role in the cross-reactivity of patients primarily sensitized to mealworm. On the basis of our results, the effects of processing appear to be protein-, species- and treatment-specific. Therefore, house dust mite, shrimp and mealworm allergic patients should consume insects with caution, even after thermal processing.
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