A new blood test developed by researchers at the Mount Sinai Medical Center can predict the severity of people’s food allergies, according to a study published this week in The Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
The simple blood test could potentially eliminate the need for patients to undergo the standard skin prick tests, or blood tests which measure allergen-specific IgE (sIgE), a protein made by the immune system. Neither test, unlike this latest development, can estimate the severity of the allergy.
The test could also replace the current primary method of diagnosing a food allergy, which requires a patient to ingest the allergen under medical supervision and observe for signs of an allergic reaction.
The newly developed basophil activation test (BAT), on the other hand, measures the levels of an immune cell called basophil which is activated by exposure to allergens, and only requires a small blood sample, which can be easily withdrawn without needing to expose the patient directly.
During testing, patients with food allergies — peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, or sesame, or a placebo — were tested for correlation between BAT results and allergies. The test, which was double blind — neither researchers nor patients knew who had received a placebo or an allergen — showed a strong correlation between BAT data and allergen scores.
Currently, BAT testing is only approved for research purposes, but the team hopes that similar future studies will lead to “widespread clinical use,” Dr. Xiu-Min Li, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Time magazine.