Scientists studied how nasal smears could be used to measure antibody concentrations for many different allergens, according to the research published recently in Allergy, the official journal of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, a professor of environmental medicine at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the director of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, has now tested the new diagnostic method for allergic rhinitis with her team.

Traidl-Hoffmann’s team used this molecular diagnostics technology to measure concentrations of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in the blood and nasal secretions of test subjects. These antibodies play a role in certain allergic responses. The researchers studied individuals with and without sensitization to the most common airborne allergens, including dust mite castings, grass pollen and the pollen of birch, hazelnut and alder trees.

For the same tests, the blood and nasal smears yielded similar results: They detected identical allergic sensitization patterns, i.e. the same sets of substances for which the body had developed an immune response. This was the case for all airborne allergens investigated. Previous studies had already demonstrated a link between the detection of allergy antibodies in the blood and in nasal secretions for certain aeroallergens. The researchers have now confirmed this correlation for a wide range of such allergens.

“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,” says Traidl-Hoffmann.