Researchers estimate that in the US, more than 50 million adults and 26 million children suffer from allergies every year, with an estimated $18 billion annually in associated costs to the healthcare system and businesses—with no end in sight, as the number of individuals affected by allergies continues to rise.

Historically, standard clinical management for allergies involved assessment of a patient’s reactions and history, followed by skin-prick testing, and/or immunoassays of whole allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (sIgE). The emerging field of molecular allergology is innovating how allergies are diagnosed and treated. Today, a routine blood test coupled with molecular diagnostics can allow physicians to identify, with great specificity, the component proteins to which a patient is sensitized.

This bottom-up approach enables more proactive allergy diagnosis and management, and that is critical; for some patients, allergies aren’t just a nuisance—they can be life-threatening. Because these new blood allergy tests quantify specific IgE antibodies to single, pure allergen components, they can be used to not only pinpoint allergic triggers, but also to help gauge where a patient falls on the spectrum of possible reactions. Such results can significantly reduce anxieties for patients and help determine which, if any, restrictions are necessary.

Component blood allergy tests are now available to help diagnose environmental and food allergies, as well as allergies to pets and stinging insects. Often, patients react to more than one allergen, and these new tests can help distinguish primary sensitization from cross-reactivity. In addition, some may be used for risk assessments regarding the development of asthma.

Allergies are one of the most common non-communicable chronic conditions in the world and are considered an emerging global public health challenge. Molecular allergology is helping medical professionals proactively diagnose allergies and predict which patients may be at risk for life-threatening reactions. Just like getting a standard cholesterol check, patients with allergy symptoms can now undergo a simple blood draw and receive a highly refined diagnosis that may improve their quality of life, while also saving time and resources for labs.