Tags: Allergies | allergy | keychain | detector | nuts | shellfish

Keychain Detector Could Spot Allergies

Keychain Detector Could Spot Allergies
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By    |   Thursday, 09 November 2017 11:42 AM

Eating out can be a perilous experience for those who have food allergies. Unknown ingredients and cross-contamination with allergens can trigger dangerous, even life-threatening reactions that include trips to the emergency room for those who are sensitive. Now a new portable allergen-detection system that's small enough to put on a keychain could help prevent allergic reactions.

People with food allergies can usually manage their condition by avoiding the specific nuts, fish, eggs or other products that cause a reaction. Reactions can range from mild rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis, which can be caused by foods, stings, insect bites, latex exposure, and medications, can cause a range of symptoms including an itchy rash, swelling of the throat or tongue, low blood pressure, and shortness of breath.

Until now, conventional methods to detect hidden allergens in food either required bulky laboratory equipment, or were slow and didn't pick up on low concentrations. Harvard University's Ralph Weissleder, Hakho Lee and their colleagues wanted to make a more practical, consumer-friendly option.

They developed a $40 portable allergen-detection system called integrated exogenous antigen testing, or iEAT. It consists of a handheld device to extract allergens from food and an electronic keychain reader for sensing allergens that wirelessly communicates the results to a smartphone.

In less than 10 minutes, the prototype could detect five allergens, one each from wheat, peanuts, hazelnuts, milk and egg whites, at levels even lower than the gold standard laboratory assay.

Although the prototype was designed to sense five allergens, the researchers say the device could be expanded to test for additional compounds, including other allergens and non-food contaminants such as pesticides. No date was given for when the device would be manufactured and available to the public.

The study results were published in the journal ACS Nano.

Food allergies are on the rise in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that food allergies in children jumped 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.

About 90 percent of allergic reactions to foods are to milk, shellfish, peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, soy, fish, and wheat.

Although food allergies are usually thought of as a problem in children, new research shows that almost half of all adults with food allergies developed them as adults.

"Food allergies are often seen as a condition that begins in childhood, so the idea that 45 percent of adults with food allergies develop them in adulthood is surprising," says Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"We also saw that, as with children, the incidence of food allergies in adults is rising across all ethnic groups."

The most common food allergy among adults is shellfish, affecting an estimated 3.6 percent of U.S. adults. This indicates a 44 percent increase from the 2.5 percent rate published in a 2004 study.

In addition, adult allergies to tree nuts have increased from .5 percent in 2008 to 1.8 percent — an increase of 260 percent.

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Eating out can be a perilous experience for those who have food allergies. Unknown ingredients and cross-contamination with allergens can trigger dangerous, even life-threatening reactions that include trips to the emergency room for those who are sensitive. Now a new...
allergy, keychain, detector, nuts, shellfish
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2017-42-09
Thursday, 09 November 2017 11:42 AM
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