Breath test to reduce peanut allergy trauma

Oct 14 2014

Dr Rani Bhatia and Dr Adam Collison with HCRF Chair Janelle Shakespeare

As the prevalence of peanut allergy increases world-wide, two HMRI paediatric researchers are developing a unique diagnostic test that will be less traumatic and more accurate for young patients.

Dr Adam Collison and Dr Rani Bhatia received a $25,000 grant tonight at the annual Hunter Children’s Research Foundation (HCRF) Awards to expand their trial of a biomarker derived from FeNO (fraction of exhaled nitric oxide) levels in a patient’s breath.

The current accepted standard for diagnosis is to give children a peanut serving in a hospital setting where anaphylactic attacks can be clinically managed if they occur. It is often a stressful experience for the child and places a significant burden on medical staff.

“Patients with peanut allergy are at the highest risk of suffering life-threatening anaphylaxis so there is a growing need for improved diagnostic biomarkers to clarify childhood food allergy and improve patient safety,” Dr Collison said.

“We recently performed a study at John Hunter Children’s Hospital and HMRI which identified the FeNO in patients’ breath as a significantly better predictor of peanut allergy status than either a skin prick test or the optimal blood test.

“This biomarker could not only differentiate between allergic and non-allergic reactions, it was also capable of differentiating between those who will have an anaphylactic reaction versus clinically significant but not anaphylactic response to peanuts.”

Under the HCRF-funded study, children aged 6-18 years with suspected peanut allergy will be invited to participate in a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover food challenge using a mince-based meal containing either peanut flour or gluten-free flour.

“This is the first test in the world capable of making this distinction, and successful completion of the study will be a significant breakthrough in the area of food allergy,” Dr Collison added.

Around 8 per cent of children suffer from physician-diagnosed food allergy, however recent figures from the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology place the rate in European children as high as 22 per cent.

*Dr Collison is from the University of Newcastle and Dr Bhatia is from Hunter New England Health. Both research in conjunction with HMRI’s VIVA program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.