Food allergies affect between four and six percent of American children, and can vary in type and severity. Some children may experience stomachaches when eating gluten, or wheezing when eating a peanut product.
Some food allergies are quite serious though, and require strict monitoring. In the past, testing for food allergies was a bit difficult. It usually involved several skin pricks to look for skin reactions to allergy-specific antibodies. Some people also try eating specific foods to test the severity of an allergy – an experience many patients do not enjoy.
A new blood test may change the face of food allergies and perhaps prevent the unpleasant tests of the past. Researchers at Mount Sinai Healthy System looked at whether a blood test could predict allergy severity, this negating the necessity for tests where patients have to eat what they are allergic to. The new test is called basophil activation test (BAT) and measures the levels of an immune cell, which activates upon exposure to food.
The researchers conducted the test on 67 volunteers with food sensitivities. The volunteers were randomly given different foods – including peanuts and shellfish – or a placebo. The goal was to see whether the blood test corresponded to how the people actually reacted to the substance. The study team found the blood test to be quite accurate, with an overwhelmingly high correlation between the BAT’s scores and the severity of the patients’ reactions to the items they were fed.
It is hoped that the findings of this study will lead to the development of the BAT test in more clinical trials and perhaps become a part of clinical allergy diagnoses. This could improve overall quality of life for patients with food sensitivities and help them determine the severity of their allergy without the painful pricks or reactions of the past. Lead study author Dr. Xiu-Min Li, is certain that this study will encourage future trials that are similar nature and is quite promising for allergy sufferers all over the world.
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