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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001 Mar;107(3):419-28.

Cockroach allergens and asthma.

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Departments of Pediatrics and Cell and Molecular Biology, University of São Paulo School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, Brazil.


Asthma and allergy are the most common diseases associated with cockroach infestation of houses in the United States and other parts of the world. Sensitization and exposure to cockroach allergens is associated with increased asthma morbidity in the United States, especially among lower socioeconomic groups, including African American and Hispanic populations. Exposure to cockroach allergens in the first 3 months of life has been associated with repeated wheezing and asthma. The principal domestic cockroach species are Blattella germanica and Periplaneta americana. Both species produce several potent allergens, including Bla g 2 (inactive aspartic proteinase), Bla g 4 (calycin), Bla g 5 (glutathione-S-transferase), the group 1 cross-reactive allergens Bla g 1 and Per a 1, and tropomyosin. Structural homology between tropomyosins from cockroaches, mites, and shrimp may explain clinical cases of the oral allergy syndrome. The 3-dimensional structures of several cockroach allergens are known, and biologically active recombinant allergens have been produced in high-level expression vectors. The use of recombinant cockroach allergens should allow mechanisms of cockroach-induced asthma to be investigated and may lead to the development of new approaches to asthma treatment. Environmental allergen measurements of Bla g 1 and Bla g 2 have allowed exposure levels that cause allergic sensitization to be established. Abatement studies have shown that a sustained decrease in cockroach allergen levels is difficult but can be accomplished by professional application of insecticides, together with rigorous household cleaning. Cockroach asthma is an important public health problem that affects patients who are the least likely to be compliant with treatment with asthma medications or environmental control. Patient education, improvements in the housing stock, and improvements in environmental and immunologic treatment strategies are likely to be the most successful approaches to reduce the prevalence of cockroach-induced asthma.

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