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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Largest Roach Allergen Identified

By Sean Adams
December 31, 1996

A key German cockroach allergen has been identified by scientists with the Agricultural Research Service and cooperating institutions. The discovery came as part of a long-term project among researchers at ARS, the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Laboratory of Standards and Testing.

The newly discovered allergen is the largest of several other cockroach allergens that researchers have identified over the past two decades.

ARS scientists provided cockroach biological materials to ACHRI and FDA researchers, who isolated the genetic code of the protein and then copied it in a process called cloning.

ACHRI scientists then tested the allergen in 22 people known to be sensitive to cockroach allergens. Of the 22, 17 (77 percent) were sensitive to the allergen, made of proteins that are shed in cockroach shells and other body parts.

In asthmatics, allergies to cockroaches are second only to household dust mites.

Scientists say the discovery of this high molecular weight allergen could help medical researchers devise improved diagnostic test kits for people with cockroach allergies.

ARS scientists are developing an allergen environmental detection kit that can be used to determine distribution of cockroach allergens inside homes and other structures.

The cooperating scientists are working with private-sector cooperators to find ways to denature or eliminate the allergens from houses and other dwellings.

Scientific contact: Richard J. Brenner, ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology Research, Gainesville, Fla., phone (352) 374-5903,

Last Modified: 5/15/2017
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