Believe it or not, I was already preparing an article on allergic reactions to cockroach when this story broke: Bug-eating contest winner likely died from allergic reaction to cockroaches: expert Unfortunately, Edward Archbold died on Monday October 7, 2012 after competing in in a cockroach eating contest held by Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Florida. In fact, he won the contest and the grand prize of a python, which he intended to give to a friend. He began vomiting after the contest, collapsed in front of the store, and was pronounced dead at the hospital. An autopsy is being conducted.
I previously contacted pest management training company owner Jeff Twinn of Pest Certified, since I heard that he had information linking cockroaches to shellfish allergies. He explained to me that the dust from cockroach exoskeleton can trigger asthma in asthma sufferers, which is well documented. He also explained something very interesting: Those allergic to shellfish can react to cockroaches because the cockroach exoskeleton contains exactly the same protein that most commonly causes shellfish allergy.
Cockroaches leave this protein on surfaces, and a large infestation could leave significant traces on surfaces. You can wash the protein off a hard surface, but you can’t wash it off your skin, since it absorbs into the skin. Instead, it has to slough off the skin. If your asthma or allergies are worsened by contact with cockroaches and your home is infested, you would need to exterminate. Long term exposure can take its toll by making you even more sensitive to your allergen or by causing an allergic reaction.
Experts are already guessing Edward Archbold died from an allergic reaction. Mike Tringale, the vice-president of The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, said in the article cited above that it’s possible that Archbold “hit his tolerance level to cockroach allergens” and went into anaphylactic shock.
I wonder if Edward Archbold was allergic to shellfish and reacted to that protein in the cockroach exoskeleton. Should his friends or family be reading this, I send my condolences to them. My hope is that some knowledge will be gained from his loss that will inform others of the risks of extreme eating competitions.