Melbourne researchers find a new way of testing for peanut allergy
Currently, oral food challenges are used for diagnosing peanut allergy, which are effective but time-consuming, costly and patients risk severe reactions such as anaphylaxis.
Co-lead researcher, Thanh Dang, a University of Melbourne PhD student based at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, said the new test had many benefits and could minimise over-diagnosis of peanut allergy.
The new test uses part of the peanut protein called ‘Arah2’ and involved a two-step screening process. He said performing a blood test, followed by the Arah2 test, was more accurate than using one of the tests alone. The new process reduced the need for oral food challenges by four-fold.
Associate Professor Katie Allen said the new test could reduce the burden on clinicians and the health care system.
“Due to the rapid increase in rates of sensitisation to foods, allergy services are overwhelmed, and food challenge tests might be difficult to access. This method would help alleviate the current strain and demand on clinical allergy services, with the allergy patient waiting times in excess of 18 months in many centres in Australia,” she said.
Professor Allen said the test would also help minimise over-diagnosis and would reduce the number of patients requiring referral to specialist services for confirmation of a food allergy, by using oral food challenges. Patients would simply need to visit a GP rather than a specialist allergy clinic.
“Due to the long wait times for specialist’s clinics, many clinicians are faced with the difficult task of having to assess the presence of food allergy based solely on a positive skin prick test or other available tests and must err on the side of caution and accept a diagnosis of ‘possible’ food allergy in these situations.
“This approach can lead to over diagnosis of peanut allergy in the community and a potentially unnecessary burden on the health care system,” she said.
This news follows the recent groundbreaking research by the Monash Immunology/Alfred Health research team identifying the key components for a safe and effective vaccine to treat peanut allergy.