Immunologist Professor Ferrante, who touts the finding as the ‘most significant breakthrough in allergy testing for some decades’ says, ‘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.’ Specifically, the protein kinase C zeta is much lower in children at risk of allergies.
The blood test is much more effective than previous indicators of whether a child will develop allergies, such as family history or measuring the antibody IgE. Knowing if newborns are at risk can help parents get a jump start in both keeping the allergies from developing, when possible, and taking measures to reduce allergen exposure.
Along these lines, the researchers are also investigating whether fish oil supplements given to both pregnant women and those who have just given birth can reduce the risks of children developing allergies. Professor Ferrante comments, ‘There is evidence that the levels of this important protein increase with fish oil supplementation to protect against allergy development.’