Hamster epithelium

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Code: e84
Latin name: Cricetus cricetus, Mesocricetus auratus and Phodopus sungorus
Source material: Epithelium
Family: Cricetidae
Common names: Cricetidae
  • Cricetus cricetus - Common hamster
  • Phodopus sungorus  - Siberian hamster, Dwarf hamster
  • Mesocricetus auratus - Golden hamster
Direct or indirect contact with animal allergens frequently causes sensitisation. Animal allergens are major components of house dust.

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution
This Old World rodent is related to Voles, Lemmings, and New World Mice. There are many Hamster species, classified in several genera. They are solitary, burrowing, nocturnal animals, with chunky bodies, usually short tails, soft, thick fur, and large external cheek pouches used for holding food. Hamsters feed on grain and other plant matter and are serious agricultural pests in many parts of their range. The Syrian, or Golden Hamster, of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, is familiar as a laboratory animal and pet (prized for its placidity and cleanliness), but is little known in the wild state. About 15cm long, it is light-colored, with white underparts.
See Geographical distribution.
No allergens from this animal have yet been characterised. The allergens are probably, as with other rodents, to be found in the hair, epithelia, saliva, serum and urine.

Potential Cross-Reactivity

The Siberian Hamster, a member of the same family as the Common and Golden Hamster, is able to induce both sensitisation and disease, but importantly, there is no cross-reactivity between this Hamster and the latter two (1).

Clinical Experience

IgE mediated reactions
Asthma, allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis occur frequently in laboratory workers dealing with Hamsters and in individuals keeping these rodents as domestic pets (1-9).
Hamster is a popular pet in Japan, and the numbers of these pets have been increasing (3, 4). About 20 to 30% of asthma patients show positive skin-specific IgE responses to Hamster allergens (1, 2).
Children of parents occupationally exposed to laboratory animals presented significantly more positive skin-specific IgE against allergens from the hair of laboratory animals, compared to children of nonexposed parents. These children may experience cough and rhinitis while visiting their parents' workplace (1).
Anaphylaxis following a Hamster bite has been reported (1).
Other reactions
Allergic contact dermatitis to Hamster has been described (1).
Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman, harris@zingsolutions.com


  1. Berto JM, Pelaez A, Fernandez E, Lombardero M, Ferrer M. Siberian hamster: a new indoor source of allergic sensitization and respiratory disease. Allergy 2002;57(2):155-9
  2. Muljono IS, Voorhorst R. Atopy to dander from domestic animals. Allerg Immunol (Leipz) 1978;24(1):50-60
  3. Horiguchi T, Tachikawa S, Kasahara J, Kondo R, Miyazaki J, Shiga M, Sugiyama M, Sasaki Y, Hirose M, Teruya S. Clinical studies on bronchial asthma caused by contact with hamsters. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol 2000;18(3):141-5
  4. Osuna H, Maeda Y, Mita H, Yasueda H, Kaneko F, Hayakawa T, Hasegawa M, Murakami E, Akiyama K. 18 cases of asthma induced by hamster or guinea-pig bred as pets. [Japanese] Arerugi 1997;46(10):1072-5
  5. Desjardins A, Benoit C, Ghezzo H, L'Archeveque J, Leblanc C, Paquette L, Cartier A, Malo JL. Exposure to domestic animals and risk of immunologic sensitization in subjects with asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1993;91(5):979-86
  6. Hook WA, Powers K, Siraganian RP. Skin tests and blood leukocyte histamine release of patients with allergies to laboratory animals. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1984;73(4):457-65
  7. Rudolph R, Meier-Duis H, Kunkel G, Staud RD, Stock U. Allergies to animal hair in diseases of the upper respiratory tract. [German] Dtsch Med Wochenschr 1975;100(50):2557-61
  8. Bruchhausen D, Bruchhausen M. Guinea-pig and golden-hamster hair allergy. [German] Z Allgemeinmed 1975;51(34):1600-2
  9. Lim HK. Hamster-hair hypersensitivity. Br Med J 1971;4(786):560-1
  10. Wilson JA. Hamster-hair hypersensitivity in adults of low atopic status. Br Med J 1971;4(783):341
  11. Akiyama K. Environmental allergens and allergic diseases. [Japanese] Rinsho Byori 1997;45(1):13-8
  12. Seki R. Clinical usefulness of the histamine release test in assessing adult asthmatic patients who keep hamster. [Japanese] Arerugi 2001;50(11):1106-13
  13. Krakowiak A, Szulc B, Gorski P. Allergy to laboratory animals in children of parents occupationally exposed to mice, rats and hamsters. Eur Respir J 1999;14(2):352-6
  14. Tomitaka A, Suzuki K, Akamatsu H, Matsunaga K. Anaphylaxis after hamster bites: a rare case? Contact Dermatitis 2002;46(2):113
  15. Maguire HC Jr. Allergic contact dermatitis in the hamster and in other rodents. Adv Exp Med Biol 1981;134:59-66


As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.