Insects contain a natural structural component in their exoskeletons called chitin. This fibrous polysaccharide happens to be extremely toxic to humans. Specifically, chitin triggers inflammation and immune responses; to wit:
Chitin, a potential allergy-promoting pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP), is a linear polymer composed of N-acetylglucosamine residues which are linked by β-(1,4)-glycosidic bonds. Mammalians are potential hosts for chitin-containing protozoa, fungi, arthropods, and nematodes; however, mammalians themselves do not synthetize chitin and thus it is considered as a potential target for recognition by mammalian immune system. Chitin is sensed primarily in the lungs or gut where it activates a variety of innate (eosinophils, macrophages) and adaptive immune cells (IL-4/IL-13 expressing T helper type-2 lymphocytes). Chitin induces cytokine production, leukocyte recruitment, and alternative macrophage activation.