London - A new blood test could make it easier and safer to identify children with peanut allergies.
The test correctly identifies 98 percent of sufferers and it is hoped it will replace existing tests which give children tiny amounts of peanuts, at a risk of sending them into anaphylactic shock.
The rate of peanut allergies in Western children has doubled in the past decade. It is the most common food allergy, thought to affect one in 40 youngsters.
Currently they are diagnosed using an unreliable skin-prick test and an "oral food challenge", which involves giving children incrementally larger doses of peanuts. The new blood test looks for biomarkers in white blood cells which are triggered by the immune system.
Study leader Dr Alexandra Santos, a Medical Research Council scientist at King’s College London, said: "The current tests are not ideal.
"If we relied on them alone, we’d be over-diagnosing food allergies."
The new test is more accurate than a finger-prick test, which can pick up false positives of children who just have a sensitivity to peanuts but are not allergic. The study is reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.