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Pollinosis to Ricinus communis (castor bean): an aerobiological, clinical and immunochemical study


García González Jefe de Sección de Alergología, Complejo Hospitalario Carlos Haya, Pabellón C. Sección de Alergia, Plaza del Hospital Civil, s/n, 29009 Málaga, Spain.



Ricinus communis (castor bean) is a species included into the Euphorbiaceae family, common to all the warm regions of the world. Although the allergenicity of its seed is well known, references are scarce regarding the role played by its pollen as a pneumo-allergen.


To carry out an aerobiological study of this pollen in the Málaga area (southern Spain); describe the physicochemical characteristics of its most relevant allergens; and to demonstrate the existence of patients with respiratory allergy due to this pollen.


A Burkard spore trap was used for the aerobiological study from 1992 to 1996. Skin prick tests with castor bean pollen extract were performed to 1946 patients with rhinitis and/or asthma. Specific IgE levels were measured in castor bean-positive SPT patient sera. Immunochemical characterization of the most relevant allergens was performed using electrophoretic techniques. In vitro cross-reactivity studies using positive patient sera were carried out. Nasal challenge tests were done in 32 subjects randomly selected from the sensitized patient group.


Castor bean is a perennial pollen with total annual pollen levels never exceeding 1%. One hundred and eighteen (7.7%) patients showed positive prick test (74 rhinitis, 36 rhinitis and asthma, eight asthma). Nine were monosensitized. Specific IgE levels were ≥ 0.35 PRU/mL in 39 (33%) of patient sera. Nasal challenge test: 10 subjects presented non-specific nasal hyperactivity, 15 were positive and seven negative. The molecular masses and isoelectric points of the main IgE-binding proteins, ranged from ≈ 67–15.5/14.5 kDa and ≈ 4.5–5.5, respectively. Profilin of the extract was purified by poli- L-proline-Sepharose chromatography and it appeared as one of the most frequent allergens.


Castor bean pollen is an allergen which causes respiratory (mainly nasal) symptoms.