Are Mold, Food, and Penicillin Allergies Related?

One Relationship Exists and One Does Not

Mold allergy may cause some forms of food allergy.

Mold is a fungus and when mold spores reach the air, they can cause a variety of allergy symptoms like a runny nose, itchy eyes, and coughing. While there are many different types of molds, a common indoor mold is Penicillium, which can cause nasal allergies and asthma in certain people. 

Does Penicillium Mold Allergy Mean You Have a Penicillin Allergy?

In short, no. While the antibiotic penicillin was originally developed from Penicillium, people with mold allergy are not at an increased risk of developing an allergy to this class of antibiotics.

Modern-day penicillin antibiotics are produced synthetically and are not contaminated with mold particles.

Does a Mold Allergy Mean You Will Have Food Allergies?

It is possible, however, for people with mold allergy to be predisposed to food allergies. Penicillium can be found in certain aged and blue-veined cheeses, such as Roquefort and Camembert. There have been reports of food allergy reactions in Penicillium-allergic people who eat these cheeses. Symptoms of oral allergy syndrome have also been reported in people with mold allergies who have eaten raw mushrooms.

You may be wondering how a mold allergy can be related to a mushroom allergy. The answer is explained by a phenomenon called cross-reactivity.

The Basics of Cross-Reactivity 

Cross-reactivity means that there are similar proteins shared between certain foods and certain molds. So if a person is allergic to molds, he or she very well may react to foods like mushrooms that contain a similar protein.

There is also ample scientific evidence suggesting cross-reactivity between different pollens and raw fruits and vegetables. Likewise, an allergy to latex can predispose people to certain food allergies (mostly fruits and nuts)—doctors have even named this condition the latex-food syndrome.

The Bottom Line

The big picture here is that while a mold allergy may predispose a person to a mushroom allergy, it does not predispose him or her to medication allergies (including the common antibiotic penicillin).

That being said, it is possible that a person happens to have both an allergy to certain molds and a penicillin allergy—but the two are not interconnected (it is simply a coincidence). 

Sources:

American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. (2014). Mold Allergy.

Dauby P, Whisman B, Hagan L. Cross-reactivity between raw mushroom and molds in a patient with oral allergy syndrome. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002; 89:319-22.

Gabriel MF et al. From respiratory sensitization to food allergy: Anaphylactic reaction after ingestion of mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus)Med Mycol Case Rep. 2015 Jun;8:14-16.

Kuhl S. Aeroallergens and Other Environmental Allergens. In: Naguwa SM, Gershwin ME, eds. Allergy and Immunology Secrets. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Hanley and Belfus, Inc.;2001:33-44.

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