The presence of IgE towards allergens, also called sensitization (elevated specific serum IgE and/or positive skin prick test) is only clinically relevant in 50% of the patients. Furthermore, the extent of sensitization seems only partly associated with the severity of the symptoms. Therefore, the diagnosis of food allergy is currently only considered reliable when measurement of sensitization is followed by a double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC) as the gold standard to prove clinical relevance. This is an elaborate and expensive test, which is only available in specialized centers. Therefore, there is a clear need for improved tool for the diagnosis of food allergy.
To improve current and develop new tools for the diagnosis of food allergy.
Human in vivo/ex vivo:
In order to improve current tools for the diagnosis of food allergy, it is necessary to know the value of these tools in well-characterzied food-allergic patients. Therefore, in the past years large effort has been made to characterize various groups of patients in detail, with respect to:
- Specific serum IgE to allergen extract or to major allergens
- Skin prick test (SPT) using allergen extract or major allergens:
- Double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC)
These patient groups can be asked to participate in studies, by providing us with well-characterized human data or samples such as serum.
Furthermore, because current diagnostic tools are not sufficiently sensitive and specific to discriminate patients with and without clinical symptoms, it is important to search for new biomarkers that are strongly associated with food allergy or tolerance. These biomarkers can be identified by metabolomics (e.g. Mass Spectrometry, NMR), using material from different groups of patients or animals (serum/plasma, saliva, urine, tissue).
Animal models for food allergy:
To identify potential new biomarkers for the presence/absence or severity of clinical symptoms, the available animal models can be used. Material can be collected of allergic and non-allergic animals, or from animals before and after allergen challenge. When markers are identified that are associated with a clinical response, this can be verified in human patients with food allergy.