Learning About UKnowPeanut with Dr. Maeve O’Connor

Peanut.

Peanut. (Photo credit: ♦ Biel’s ® ♦ Gabriel Machado ♦)

This summer, I was lucky enough to participate in an online peanut allergy summit to learn more about the UKnowPeanut test for those with peanut allergies.  I learned a lot and have been anxious to share, but wanted to you to hear about the testing straight from the source…enter Dr. Maeve O’Connor.

Dr. O’Connor was kind enough to do a guest post here on The Food Allergy Mom, so you can learn more about this new molecular allergy test and what it means for individuals with peanut allergies.

A special thanks to Michelle and Dr. O’Connor for collaborating to make this information accessible to so many food allergy families!

“Hi, I’m Dr. Maeve O’Connor, an allergist/immunologist board certified by the American Board of Allergy & Immunology and the American Board of Internal Medicine. I live in Charlotte, NC. Recently, I teamed up with Thermo Fisher Scientific’s ImmunoDiagnostics team to host an online peanut allergy summit.  The Food Allergy Mom was one of our featured guests and I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to author a blog post for her readers on how to interpret the results of a new molecular allergy test called uKnow Peanut .

During our online peanut allergy summit, we talked a lot about this simple blood test and the value it can provide to parents by evaluating a patient’s unique sensitivity to each of the molecules that comprise a peanut. Dr. Robert Reinhardt, Medical Director of the ImmunoDiagnostics part of Thermo Fisher Scientific and blogger for Is It Allergy, actually offered an in-depth look at the science behind the test in a previous post for the Food Allergy Mom.  

The real value of the uKnow Peanut test is the clarity that it provides to parents and children dealing with a peanut allergy. It allows parents to have a better perspective on the precise protein of a peanut their child is allergic to. But what can remain confusing is how to properly interpret the results of the uKnow Peanut test and the course of action to take once you receive them. Below I will outline the three most important things parents should keep in mind when interpreting their uKnow Peanut results and their next steps. The physician who ordered the test will interpret the results and advise you of the proper next steps.

Analyze the results. For instance, positivity to Ara h 2, means that a patient has a high likelihood of having a severe systemic reaction to peanut. For patients with this result, I advise them to keep their EpiPen, Benadryl and medical identification bracelet on them at all times. The bracelet should have specific information to help a bystander know what to do in the event of an emergency.  I also provide them with a written Food Action Plan that should be available 24/7 so that swift action can be taken should a life-threatening reaction occur. For patients with a high IgE sensitization to Ara h 1 and Ara h 3, I usually advise the same course of action.

Understand the different proteins. Ara h 8 can be one of the trickiest proteins to understand as it often cross reacts with birch pollen. For patients I have seen, that have only shown positive results for Ara h 8 and no other allergen components, I always take a good look at the patient‘s  previous medical history and consider an oral food challenge for them under my direct supervision in the office.

If and when a food challenge is needed to clarify an allergy, be aware of the steps involved. In many of my patients, a food challenge is a necessary added step for allergy clarification. That involves small incremental amounts of peanut being given to the patient over a four to six hour period of time in order to see if the patient can tolerate it. This is done in a very guarded fashion, with an EpiPen on hand. We do this to ensure that if a reaction occurs, appropriate emergency care can be undertaken. A nurse dedicated to that patient is on hand so there is no hesitation or delay if someone does in fact need emergency care.

My greatest advice to parents: The best thing you can do to accurately interpret your child’s uKnow Peanut test results is to see someone who is very familiar with the test. Seek out a doctor who specializes in food allergy and has a solid familiarity with the test so that they can interpret your results thoroughly and offer you and your family the best course of action. The interpretation of your child’s results really is of utmost importance and requires a partnership between a parent and the appropriately armed medical professional to get the best information and steps to take.

If you want to know more about uKnow Peanut, I encourage you to head on over to www.isitallergyblog.com and read about a variety of topics from food allergies to seasonal allergies to asthma and things to keep in mind during back to school season. You can also connect with the Is It Allergy team on Facebook or Twitter @isitallergy. Still have questions? Feel free to direct them to isitallergy.twitter@gmail.com .”

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