Development and progress made in the field of recombinant allergens have allowed for the development of a new concept in allergy diagnosis, molecular diagnosis (MD), which makes it possible to identify potential disease-eliciting molecules. Microarray-based testing performed with a small amount of serum sample enables clinicians to determine specific-IgE antibodies against multiple recombinants or purified natural allergen components. Performance characteristics of allergens so far tested are comparable with current diagnostic tests, but have to be confirmed in larger studies. The use of allergen components and the successful interpretation of test results in the clinic require some degree of knowledge about the basis of allergen components and their clinical implications. Allergen components can be classified by protein families based on their function and structure. This review provides a brief overview of basic information on allergen components, recombinants or purified, currently available or soon to become commercially available in ImmunoCAP or ISAC® systems, including names, protein family and function. Special consideration is given to primary or species-specific sensitization and possible cross-reactivity, because one of the most important clinical utility of MD is its ability to reveal whether the sensitization is genuine in nature (primary, species-specific) or if it is due to cross-reactivity to proteins with similar protein structures, which may help to evaluate the risk of reaction on exposure to different allergen sources. MD can be a support tool for choosing the right treatment for the right patient with the right timing. Such information will eventually give clinicians the possibility to individualize the actions taken, including an advice on targeted allergen exposure reduction, selection of suitable allergens for specific immunotherapy, or the need to perform food challenges. Nevertheless, all in vitro tests should be evaluated together with the clinical history, because allergen sensitization does not necessarily imply clinical responsiveness.
Cite this as: J. Sastre, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 1442–1460.