Researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Munich, Germany have found that nasal swabs can capture sufficient antibodies for effective allergy testing, and may represent a viable alternative to skin prick or blood tests for allergens. In a press release from TUM on April 17, study author Prof. Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann said: “A big advantage of allergy diagnostics with a nasal smear is that it is a good option for small children as compared to blood samples or skin prick testing. For that age group, a hyposensitization therapy is important because allergic rhinitis can develop into allergic asthma.”
Dr. Traidl-Hoffmann is a professor of environmental medicine at TUM and the director of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, in Munich. The researchers investigated whether molecular diagnostics biochip technology, which is typically used to measure antibody concentrations for 112 different allergens in blood samples, would as accurately identify those antibodies from nasal smears. Participants included 47 individuals with sensitization to, and two without sensitization to the most common airborne allergens, including dust mite castings, grass pollen and the pollen of birch, hazelnut and alder trees. Investigators found that the blood and nasal smear tests yielded similar results, detecting identical allergic sensitization patterns. This was the case for all airborne allergens investigated. Dr. Stefanie Gilles, an author on the study and a senior scientist at TUM, said: “We also believe that, with nasal smears, IgE antibodies specific to certain allergies can be detected that cannot be measured in a blood sample. We now need to do further studies to explore that hypothesis.” The research was published in Allergy (Feb. 13, 2020, online ahead of print).