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Food allergy – accurately identifying clinical reactivity

Authors


Hugh A. Sampson, MD
Department of Pediatrics; Box 1198
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, New York 10029 6574
USA

Abstract

Up to 25% of adults believe that they or their children are afflicted with a food allergy. However, the actual prevalence of food allergy is much lower: approximately 6–8% of children suffer from food allergy during their first 3 years of life, and many children then develop clinical tolerance. Food allergy encompasses a whole spectrum of disorders, with symptoms that may be cutaneous, gastrointestinal or respiratory in nature. Food disorders also differ according to the extent that they are immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated. Skin-prick testing is often used to identify food sensitization, although double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC) tests remain the gold standard for diagnosis. Recent evidence suggests that quantitative IgE measurements can predict the outcome of DBPCFC tests and can replace about half of all oral food challenges. When an extensive medical history is obtained in combination with IgE quantification, even fewer patients may require formal food challenges. It has also become possible to map the IgE-binding regions of many major food allergens. This may help to identify children with persistent food allergy, as opposed to those who may develop clinical tolerance. In future, microarray technology may enable physicians to screen patients for a large number of food proteins and epitopes, using just a few drops of blood.

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