Asthma caused by Ficus benjamina latex: evidence of cross-reactivity with fig fruit and papain

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1998 Jan;80(1):24-30. doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)62934-1.


Background: Ficus benjamina or weeping fig is a plant used increasingly for indoor decoration that can cause allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Objective: We report a clinical and immunologic study in a patient with perennial asthma caused by F. benjamina latex in whom several episodes of angioedema of the oropharyngeal tract and tongue followed ingestion of figs and kiwi.

Methods: Hypersensitivity to latex from F. benjamina and from Hevea brasiliensis, fig fruit, kiwi, papain, and bromelain was investigated by means of skin prick test, specific IgE determination by CAP, histamine release test, and bronchial provocation test to F. benjamina latex. CAP-inhibition assays were carried out to study possible cross-reactivity among these antigens.

Results: Hypersensitivity to F. benjamina latex, fig, kiwi, and proteases was demonstrated by means of skin prick test, determination of specific IgE and histamine release test. Bronchial provocation test with F. benjamina latex resulted in a dual asthmatic reaction, confirming the etiologic role of this plant. A rise of eosinophil cationic protein in patient's serum was observed 21 hours after bronchial challenge, suggesting activation of eosinophils. Inhibition assays showed that F. benjamina latex as liquid-phase inhibited up to 95% the CAP to fig and up to 57% the CAP to papain. Neither sensitization nor cross-allergenicity with H. brasiliensis latex was found.

Conclusions: Hypersensitivity to F. benjamina latex may cause IgE-mediated respiratory allergy. The association with allergy to fig and papain is likely due to the existence of cross-reactive allergen structures.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Blood Proteins / analysis
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / etiology
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / immunology
  • Cross Reactions / immunology
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins
  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Fruit / immunology*
  • Histamine Release
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis
  • Inflammation Mediators / analysis
  • Latex / adverse effects*
  • Latex / immunology
  • Papain / immunology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / etiology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / immunology
  • Ribonucleases*
  • Rosales / immunology*
  • Skin Tests


  • Allergens
  • Blood Proteins
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Latex
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Ribonucleases
  • Papain