German doctors develop new fast allergy test

German doctors have developed a simple test to diagnose allergies with the same accuracy as laboratory screening in less than one-fifth of the time and cost, scientists said on Tuesday.

Over 30 percent of the population in Europe suffer from allergies and that number is expected to rise, yet only 10 percent receive proper treatment, scientist at the Allergy Centre at Berlin’s Charite hospital told a news conference.

FastCheckPoc, developed over six years, consists of a small plastic box containing a sensitive paper membrane. Two droplets of a patient’s blood, mixed with a special solution, are spread onto the paper to test for signs of 12 main food and inhalation allergies.

“This is a bedside test, which can be carried out by any practitioner, anywhere, anytime and regardless of specialist knowledge or training,” said Ulrich Wahn, a project member.

“Whether cat allergy, hay fever or asthma, allergies tend to start from a young age. Early detection can identify problems before they develop.”

Scientists said they developed the test to increase effective treatment by cutting down on expensive and time-consuming lab tests with a 30-minute test.

“The test is there for non-specialists who must make the first step in deciding if specialist therapy is needed,” Wahn said. “Many doctors err on the side of caution or are unsure what test to use to identify the problem.”

Wahn said each test would cost the state health insurance system about 17 euros ($21), roughly one-tenth the cost of laboratory screening.

“This early detection method is 90 to 100 percent accurate,” he said. “More than that is not possible in any test.”

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD