Study: Testing for Food Allergy by ‘Brushing’ Along the Gum Line

Open Wide!

Current diagnostic testing methods for food allergies leave much to be desired: Serum IgE blood tests and skin‐prick testing (SPT) are plagued by low specificity, and oral food challenges carry significant risk of provoking allergic reactions including anaphylaxis.

Clearly, allergists need additional tools to be able to accurately diagnose food allergy.

Could submitting to an allergy test in the future be as simple as opening your mouth and being brushed along the gum line?

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In a study entitled “Sensitivity, specificity, and predictive value of oral mucosal brush biopsy for the diagnosis of peanut allergy” recently published in the International Journal of Allergy & Rhinology, researchers looked at oral mucosal brush biopsy (MBB) as a means of diagnosing peanut allergy. MBB is comprised of swabbing the tooth/gum line in all four quadrants of the mouth with brushes, then rinsing the brushes in a solution to extract mucus and epithelial cells which are subsequently analyzed.

The study compared the MBBs from 20 individuals with no history of adverse reactions from eating peanuts with previously published data from 10 individuals with a history of clinical peanut allergy.

The authors concluded:

This pilot study shows the feasibility of oral MBB as a screening tool for diagnosing peanut allergy. It compared well to SPT and serum sIgE testing, the current standards of peanut-allergy testing, with higher specificity and percent correctly classified. This information supports the need for continued investigation of this method of testing in a larger population of peanut-allergic and peanut–non-allergic individuals to further refine its sensitivity, specificity, and predictive value.

If future investigation pans out, testing for food allergies may someday be as simple as your allergist having you sit back and “open wide”.

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