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Genetic biomarker could predict severity of food allergy: Study

In a first, researchers have found a genetic biomarker that could help predict the severity of food allergy reactions.

Researchers have found a genetic biomarker that could help predict the severity of food allergy reactions.(Pexels)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 22.09.2023  |  03:00 PM IST

Food allergies have become more common than before and affect millions of people across the world. However, ther.e is a lack of reliable or readily accessible clinical biomarkers that distinguish people who are at risk of severe allergies from milder symptoms. Now, for the first time, researchers have found a genetic biomarker that could help predict the severity of food allergy reactions.

In the study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the presence of an enzyme isoform called α-tryptase, which is encoded by the specific gene called TPSAB1, is associated with increased prevalence of anaphylaxis, which refers to a severe reaction to food, compared to individuals without any α-tryptase, Science Daily reports. Tryptase is found mainly in mast cells, which are white blood cells that are part of the immune system. These become activated during allergic reactions.

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Anaphylaxis can be a life-threatening allergic reaction. If a person's blood pressure drops significantly during anaphylaxis or their airway closes up considerably so that they can't get enough oxygen to their organs, they enter anaphylactic shock, according to Science Daily.

"Determining whether or not a patient with food allergies has α-tryptase can easily be done in clinical practice using a commercially available test to perform genetic sequencing from cheek swabs," says lead author Abigail Lang in the report. If the biomarker is detected, it could provide insights into understanding that the child is at a higher risk for a severe reaction or anaphylaxis from their food allergy and if they should use their epinephrine auto-injector. The finding helps in developing an entirely new treatment strategy for food allergies that block α-tryptase, Lang further explains.

As this study included 119 participants, Lang said while the initial results are promising, the preliminary findings need to be validated with a larger study. “We also still need a better understanding of why and how α-tryptase makes food allergy reactions more severe in order to pursue this avenue for potential treatment," Lang said in the press statement, published in Science Daily.

Previously, a 2020 study led by Northwestern University, found a pill that could prevent mild to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Senior author of the study, Bruce Bochner, had said that the pill could be “life-changing."

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