New blood test for peanut allergy revealed

09 May 2018 08:25

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to peanuts include itching in the mouth, a rash, swelling in the face, mouth and throat, shortness of breath and feeling dizzy.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to peanuts include itching in the mouth, a rash, swelling in the face, mouth and throat, shortness of breath and feeling dizzy.

A new blood test for detecting peanut allergies is said to be more cost-efficient and less risky than previously-used methods.

The Medical Research Council team says the new test also has the potential to be adapted for other food allergies.

Replacement for oral food challenge

The new test is said to be more accurate in diagnosing allergies than the current skin-prick test, which can be inconclusive, and even falsely diagnose peanut allergies.

The current oral food challenge (OFC) involves feeding peanuts in increasingly large doses to a patient in a controlled setting in hospital to try to confirm the allergy.

This, however, has the potential of causing severe and traumatising allergic reactions.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to peanuts include itching in the mouth, a rash, swelling in the face, mouth and throat, shortness of breath and feeling dizzy.

'Not ideal'

"The current tests are not ideal," said Dr Alexandra Santos of King's College London. She said that OFC tests tend to over-diagnose food allergies. The new tests, in comparison, are far more accurate.

"The new test is specific in confirming the diagnosis. So when it's positive, we can be very sure it means allergy," she said.

She added: "We would reduce by two-thirds the number of expensive, stressful oral food challenges conducted, as well as saving children from experiencing allergic reactions.

"One of the advantages for its use on the NHS is the fact that it is less expensive and safer compared to the OFC, but proper cost-effectiveness studies and studies about the wider impact of the test need to be performed once it is indeed available to the clinicians."

Before the test can be used clinically, however, it needs to be run routinely in a diagnostic laboratory, according to Dr Santos.

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