Along with milk and peanut allergies, egg allergies are among the most common food allergies in the world. It’s estimated that about 2% of children develop an egg allergy, though as many as 70% outgrow the allergy 16. However, the effects of an egg allergy can still be particularly dangerous, with symptoms ranging from mild rashes to life-threatening anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
The most common approach for detecting egg allergies is the ELISA test, or an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. ELISA works by detecting certain antibody-based proteins in the body, which in turn indicate the presence of a food allergy. However, research notes that many things can deter the test from developing an accurate result, including food processing. In sum, the test, while sensitive enough to detect allergies, may be confounded by other factors, leading to false positives. Researchers point to mass spectrometry as a viable way to option to overcome this problem, though mass spectrometry has its own sensitivity limitations.
In a new study published in Foods, researchers describe a proof-of-concept technique that puts the best of these two methods together to create an immunoaffinity LC-MS/MS method for detecting common egg allergies. Researchers described their approach as “a method that combines immunoaffinity clean-up and mass spectrometry to exploit the best aspects of antibody-based and MS-based detection methods, using ovalbumin as a case study. This combination of technologies can overcome the disadvantages of both ELISA and MS.”
To test their proof of concept, researchers heated egg proteins into a type of cookie material, with the goal simulating a similar food processing scenario that has been known to cause false positive results in ELISA and PCR-type models for detecting allergies. Researchers found that their new approach matched the sensitivity of existing industry standard methods like ELISA, and western blot tests further confirmed the ability of the method to work effectively despite the food processing that can confuse ELISA methods.