Scientists Develop Blood Test for Peanut Allergy

A new blood test for peanut allergy is more accurate and less risky than current tests, according to U.K. researchers.

The current skin-prick test can lead to people being diagnosed with an allergy when they do not have one. Another test involves feeding increasingly large amounts of peanuts to a person in a controlled setting in hospital to try to confirm the allergy, but that carries of risk of severe allergic reaction, BBC News reported.

The blood test was assessed in 174 children (73 with peanut allergy), ages six months to 17 years. The results appear in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

"The current tests are not ideal," said study lead author Alexandra Santos, King's College London, BBC News reported.

"If we relied on them alone, we'd be over-diagnosing food allergies -- only 22 percent of school-aged children in the U.K. with a positive test to peanuts are actually allergic when they're fed the food in a monitored setting," she said.

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

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

"Before it can be used clinically, it needs to be running routinely in a diagnostic laboratory," Santos noted.

The researchers said the new blood test could be adapted to check for other food allergies, BBC News reported.

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