Even though food allergies are common, it can be difficult to discover which foods are causing the allergic reaction.

This lack of information can not only have dangerous health consequences but also make everyday living more challenging.

Tests can be time-consuming and expensive, often yielding mixed results. A standard set of proteins are usually tested, while more exotic ones are left out.

So while there isn’t a simple and accurate food allergy test right now, a new test is on the horizon which reveals specific protein allergies quickly and accurately, even at very low concentrations.

Testing conducted for milk allergies

A cow milk allergy is common among children who live with food allergies. While a pediatric allergist can diagnose milk allergies by detecting an overproduction of IgE, that won’t tell them which one of the many proteins in milk is causing the reaction. Knowing which protein will not only influence diet restrictions, but could help build immunities as an allergy treatment.

Isolating the antibodies and testing the proteins

Hubert Girault and team at EPFL has created a highly sensitive testing method that uses a patient’s IgE to determine specifically which protein causes allergic responses. They used a technique called immunoaffinity capillary electrophoresis (IACE).

First, they isolate the IgE antibodies from the patient’s blood. These antibodies are bound in the lab. Various proteins are isolated and introduced to the bound antibodies. If there is an allergy, the proteins will be attracted to the antibodies and “stick” to them. The proteins are scrubbed and tested using mass spectrometry. At this point, the offending protein can be very accurately identified.

This new method of testing is personalized, quicker, less laborious, and highly accurate. While it’s only been tested using milk proteins, researchers are confident the method can be used for foods like nuts and wheat products.

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