Researchers have discovered that a blood test called the Basophil Activation Test ( BAT ) has the potential to predict how severe an individual’s reactions to a specific food allergen would be.
In the study, Mount Sinai researchers took blood samples from 67 patients between the ages of 12 and 45. The samples were then subjected to the BAT process, which tallies the number of basophils, a type of immune cell, that respond when blood is exposed to a food allergen.
The participants also underwent oral challenges ( in which the person eats a food to test for symptoms ). They were given either small amounts of common allergens to consume ( peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, or sesame ) or a placebo.
Significantly, the study revealed that basophil activation results bore a close correlation with the severity of reactions in the oral food challenges.
If further study backs these findings, this approach would signal a major evolution in the ability to diagnose allergy severity. Study author Xiu-Min Li, a researcher in both The Mindich Child Health and Development Institute and the Jaffe Food Allergy at Mount Sinai, also noted that BAT could be useful in allergy screening in general.
Typically, food allergies are diagnosed through a combination of skin-prick tests, blood tests that measure levels of IgE allergy antibodies, and the patient’s history of symptoms. None of the current tests, however, indicates whether the allergen will simply set off uncomfortable symptoms such as itchy hives, or whether it could send the patient into life-threatening anaphylaxis.
BAT is a much less difficult procedure than food challenges. Although food challenges are widely practiced, they carry the risk of severe allergic reactions.
The study was published in The Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. ( Xagena )
Source: Mount Sinai Health System, 2015