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Springing into allergy season: the allergy IgE test landscape

With spring in full swing in much of the northern hemisphere, it is hard to ignore the sneezing and sniffles accompanying warmer weather. While most individuals pop over to their local pharmacy to pick up over-the-counter allergy medication such as antihistamines, it begs the question, what are we specifically allergic to? Pollen levels have been shown to have increased across regions due to climate, vegetation, and urbanization. Thus, to combat this, the general public has been taking general antihistamines in hopes of dampening their allergic responses. Scientists theorise that the incidence of allergies has increased over the past 200 years and will continue to increase as changes are made to our diets and environment. A popular theory, “The Hygiene Hypothesis,” speculates that the decreasing incidence of infections in Western countries is connected to the increasing incidence of autoimmune and allergic diseases. This is because the decreased level of infections in infancy due to increased hygiene practices caused Western populations to not have as “well-educated” immune systems, making them susceptible to other diseases like allergies. Although this theory has not been proven, healthcare professionals, specifically in Western countries, can preemptively test children and adults for allergies more frequently to better understand this phenomenon.

From environment to food, many factors can lead to an allergic reaction. The rise of IgE allergy blood tests follows the rise in the incidence of allergies globally. IgE antibodies are released into the bloodstream when the immune system encounters an allergen; the in vitro diagnostic (IVD) test will then measure the response to specific allergens to determine if the patient is allergic to a sample and how severe the allergy is. Scientists are still trying to understand why certain environmental and food substances cause reactions in some and are perfectly safe in others. Hopefully, with more IgE allergy testing, scientists can determine what the cause of allergies stems from. According to GlobalData’s Product Databases, there are currently 58 marketed IgE allergy blood IVD tests, 20 in the pipeline, and two active clinical trials; thus, the market will expand in the next decade.

Traditional testing methods involve pricking the skin with small amounts of suspected allergens to see if an allergic response occurs such as redness, swelling, or itching. This type of testing tends to be uncomfortable for the patient, especially if the patient is a child. Therefore, these new blood-based allergen tests are less invasive and do not require patients to have an active allergic reaction to gauge results. Moreover, the blood tests can test for hundreds of allergens simultaneously, whereas the skin test is limited due to surface area, level of discomfort the patient can endure, and what healthcare professionals deem to be safe. Therefore, GlobalData expects growth in blood-based allergen testing not only due to the growing population of allergies but also increased awareness for blood-based allergy testing.