Research Shows That Termites Are A Source Of Environmental Allergens

There are many different types of arthropod pests. Some arthropods, like mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and sandflies, are considered pests for their ability to transmit disease to humans. Parasitic arthropods are also hazardous to human health, but not all of these arthropods are considered disease-vectors. Arthropods that are considered parasitic to humans include lice, bed bugs and several fly species. Then there are other arthropod pests that can negatively impact human health but are not parasitic or vectors of disease. For example, cockroaches are nuisance pests in structures, but considering their preference for filthy conditions, they can easily transmit dangerous bacteria to humans, especially if they make contact with human food before it is consumed. Although cockroaches can carry bacteria like E. coli to human food sources, the insects do not transmit disease pathogens directly to humans by parasitic means or through their bites. Therefore, cockroaches are not disease-vectors. Termites are among the most infamous of structural pests, but according to research, these wood-devouring insects can also cause allergic reactions in humans and they are also considered a source of environmental allergens. Surprisingly, termites inherited their ability to cause allergic conditions from their early cockroach ancestors.

Environmental factors play a big part in the development of allergies and asthma. These environmental factors include pollution, cigarette smoke and arthropods. Dust mites (arachnids) and cockroaches(insects) have long been known to induce allergies and asthma in individuals, and since termites descended from cockroaches, it is natural that termites would also contribute to the development of asthma and allergies. Some insects produce proteins that induce allergies and asthma. The particular cockroach proteins that are known for inducing allergies in humans were also found to be produced by Formosan subterranean termites. These allergenic proteins were identified as hemocyanin and tropomyosin, the latter of which is also found in shellfish, which are sea-dwelling arthropods that are notorious for the dangerous allergic reactions they produce in sensitive individuals. It is believed that termite feces (frass) also contain allergens, and it has been hypothesized that termite mud tubes can provide a route with which termite allergens can be exposed to humans. Also, termite swarming season is believed to fill the air with termite allergens, and since winged termites (alates) are attracted to artificial lights, these allergens can become particularly abundant near areas inhabited by humans. Since subterranean termites dwell and forage below the ground, the allergenic proteins that they produce are not as likely to reach humans as cockroach allergens. But much like dust mites and their cockroach ancestors, termites are very much a source of environmental allergens.

Do you think that termites need to be researched more for their potential to contribute to allergy development and allergy symptoms?


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