The most important medical problem associated with cockroach infestations is asthma. Exposure to cockroach allergens is the number one reason for asthma hospitalizations among urban children in the US. The medical community has identified potent cockroach allergens including the “Bla g” allergens. Bla g can cause allergies in mice and are used in some research laboratories as models for asthma.
A group of researchers from Boston University* has recently identified an interaction between allergens and alcohol consumption. Mice exposed to cockroach allergens have an immune response that sensitizes the mice to ethanol. Allergen-sensitized mice exposed to ethanol produced 5 times more mucin in their airways than mice with no ethanol exposure. Other effects of ethanol on the mice exposed to the cockroach allergens were noted. The ethanol effects were not noted in mice that were not exposed to the cockroach allergens.
This presents an interesting model in which people who live in buildings overrun with cockroaches may experience additional health problems when they consume alcohol. This interaction suggests that the benefits of better sanitation, improved living conditions and limiting alcohol consumption may have greater positive effects than previously recognized.
*Acute Oral Ethanol Exposure Triggers Asthma In Cockroach Allergen–Sensitized Mice, The American Journal of Pathology
Volume 181, Issue 3, September 2012, Pages 845–857