A simple blood test can now predict whether newborn babies are at high risk of developing allergies as they grow older. This is possible thanks to a new research involving the University of Adelaide.
Professor Tony Ferrante, an immunologist from SA Pathology and the Children's Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, said that the new marker may be the most significant breakthrough in allergy testing for some decades.
"A protein in the immune cells of newborns appears to hold the answer as to whether a baby will either be protected, or susceptible to the development of allergies later on," Professor Ferrante said.
Amounts of the cell signalling protein, called protein kinase C zeta, are much lower in children at risk of allergies.
Professor Ferrante says the blood test is far more effective than previous indicators, such as a family's clinical history, or measuring the allergy-inducing antibody IgE.
In collaboration with Professor Susan Prescott from the University of Western Australia and Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Professor Ferrante's research team has refined the new marker for allergy risk, originally discovered in 2007, but now modified to a simple and manageable blood test at birth.
The researchers are also looking at whether fish oil supplements given to both pregnant women and those who have just given birth can reduce the risks of the children developing allergies.
"There is evidence that the levels of this important protein increase with fish oil supplementation to protect against allergy development," Professor Ferrante said.