Research led by Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has found a possible blood test option for diagnosing food allergies.

The test, which researchers used to detect both peanut allergy and shellfish allergies in laboratory tests, is a promising move forward towards more accurate diagnosis, researchers say. Findings of the research for the blood test were published online in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology on Wednesday, April 1.

A more accurate replacement of ‘skin pricks’

The food allergy blood test would complement or even replace the current skin prick tests, which can lead to false-positives and do not indicate severity of reaction. This new test would be potentially both more accurate and capable of measuring severity. It uses the same basic principle of the prick test, looking for allergen-specific IgE, a protein made by the immune system. When exposed to an allergen, the immune system responds with IgE to stimulate cells into combating the intrusion.

The Mount Sinai researchers from the Mindich Child Health and Development Institute and the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute say that their test can count the numbers of immune cells activated by exposure to an allergen like peanuts without affecting the patient directly or giving the patient the potential allergen itself. The immune cell count would indicate severity of reaction, should one occur.

The blood test, known by the acronym BAT (basophil activation test), requires only a small blood sample, and results are obtained quickly.

“While providing crucial information about their potential for a severe allergic reaction to a food, having blood drawn for BAT testing is a much more comfortable procedure than food challenges,” first author Ying Song, MD, said.

“Although food challenges are widely practiced, they carry the risk of severe allergic reactions, and we believe BAT testing will provide accurate information in a safer manner,” said Song, who is also a researcher in the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Source: Mount Sinai Hospital

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