Clinical & Experimental Allergy

Evidence for haemoglobins as common allergenic determinants in IgE-mediated hypersensitivity to chironomids (non-biting midges)


Professor A. B. Kay, Director, Department of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, Cardiothoracic Institute, Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6HP, U.K.


Chironomids (non-biting midges) are known to cause IgE-mediated hypersensitivity in man. This study compares the cross-reactivity between the chironomid midge Cladotanytarsus lewisi (lgreen nimitti), a widespread cause of allergy in the Sudan and Chironomus riparius (=thummi, CTT) where larvae are used as pet fish food and where haemoglobins were previously shown to be major allergens. As with C. riparius, immature forms of C. lewisi also contain allergenic material since skin test responses to larval, pupal and adult extracts were obtained in Sudanese individuals. Crossed radioimmunoelectrophoresis of the C. lewisi larval and pupal extracts indicate that they contain a higher proportion of the allergenic fractions than adults. Further evidence of common allergen determinants between C. lewisi and C. riparius were obtained by the demonstration of positive skin-prick tests, in Sudanese patients, to extracts of larval, adult and isolated haemoglobin extracts of C. riparius. Cross-reactivity between C. lewisi and C. riparius was also demonstrable by RAST inhibition studies. A dose-dependent inhibition was observed using both the C. lewisi adult midge RAST and the C. riparius haemoglobin RAST, the two respective antigens, and sera from individuals hypersensitive to either C. lewisi or C. riparius. Due to the immunological cross-reactivity found between these distantly related species, we conclude that chironomids should be seen as significant environmental and occupational allergens.