Most Food Allergy Diagnoses Are Incorrect: Do you think yours might be?
- Analysis by David Teeghman
Thirty percent of Americans think they have food allergies,
but only five percent actually do, according to a recent study from the
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Much of that discrepancy can be blamed on the unreliability of the test currently used to diagnose food allergies. Right now, a patient thought to have a food allergy has small amounts of different allergens placed under his or her skin. If nothing happens, there's no allergy. But if a red bump or something similar appears, they are diagnosed as allergic to the corresponding food .
One researcher at MIT says he has developed a new technology to make food allergy diagnoses much more accurate. MIT assistant professor and chemical engineer Christopher Love describes his new process in an article for the journal Lab on a Chip. He says his new technology can analyze individual immune cells taken from patients, and measure a cell's response to each allergen.
That means it would take only a blood test to reveal a person's food allergies, which is much faster and more reliable than current tests.
WATCH VIDEO: Why do some people have allergies to certain foods or factors in the environment, and others don't? Find out here.
An allergic reaction occurs when the body's immune system mistakes a protein in food for something harmful. That allergic response that can include hives, rashes, swelling and much worse. This new technology only applies to food allergies, and will be of little use to help diagnose drug or airborne allergies.
Love says that many food allergy diagnoses now are circumstantial more than anything else. But the research has the potential to make food allergy diagnosis a much more exact science.