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DIY kit nails your allergy.

Byline: By MADELEINE BRINDLEY Western Mail

A simple test for some of the most common allergens has been invented by a North Wales company as experts warn Wales is facing an allergy epidemic.Imutest, which uses the same technology as that employed in a hospital laboratory, is the allergy equivalent of the pregnancy test, and the first on the market to give users results within half an hour.

The home-testing kits can diagnose allergies to cats, pollen, house dust mites, milk and eggs - some of the most potent causes of allergies, asthma and eczema.

Inventor Dr John Rees, managing director and founder of Clinical Diagnostics Chemicals in St Asaph, said, 'In any one year, more than 20% of the population - 12 million people in the UK - have active allergy and are likely to be receiving treatment for it.

'But while allergy is three times more common now than it was 20 years ago, allergy sufferers are still waiting from three months to two years for an appointment to see an allergy consultant.

'My background is in medical diagnostics, but I also have a PhD in allergies and I wanted to combine the two in an easy-to-use test for everyone.'

Imutest is based on the principle of the RAST - radioallergosorbent test - blood test, which has been used to detect raised antibody levels in the blood since 1967, and is considered to be the most accurate and reliable means of laboratory allergy testing by the medical profession.

Using a small sample of blood, the Imutest is able to detect raised levels of the antibody IgE, which is produced by people with an allergy to a particular irritant. Different tests have been devised to respond to different allergens.

Dr Rees said, 'If you have asthma, eczema or hayfever, you want to know whether your symptoms are related to a particular source or not. If that's the case and it looks as though allergies are the trigger, people can then identify what the specific trigger is.

'We have developed five tests for the five major triggers which, in order of importance, are the house dust mite, cat and grass pollen, and, for food allergies - milk and egg.'

Dr Chris Steele, a GP and adviser to ITV's This Morning, is an advocate of self-diagnosis. He said of Imutest, 'Understanding allergy and its causes can have a considerable impact on a person's quality of life.

'Anyone suffering with allergy will tell you that living with the symptoms from itchy skin to a constantly runny nose and flu-like symptoms can be incredibly debilitating.

'Add to this the long waiting lists and it's easy to see we have a very real allergy management problem in the UK.

'Quick, reliable and convenient home allergy testing gives people the knowledge to take the next steps towards choosing the most appropriate course of action, whether it be a doctor's appointment, an over-the-counter treatment or lifestyle changes.'

The number of people suffering from an allergy, be it hay fever or a more complex condition like asthma, is steadily rising - Wales has some of the worst childhood and adult asthma rates in the world.

But despite their frequency, it is not yet known why there has been such a rise. Some people have suggested that it is because we are now living in 'cleaner' environments.

Dr Rees added, 'We are not exposed to as many infections as people were 20 to 30 years ago when they were growing up.

'As a result, our immune responses are being triggered by things - allergens - that would otherwise not normally cause a problem.': Cost of allergic conditions not to be sneezed at:6% of GP consultations and 0.8% of hospital admissions are for allergic diseaseTreatments for asthma and other allergic disorders currently account for 10% of primary care prescribing costs

Direct NHS costs for managing allergic problems are estimated at more than pounds 1bn a year

39% of children and 30% of adults have been diagnosed with one or more allergic conditions

In any one year 20% of the population have active allergy and are likely to be receiving treatment for it

There are approximately one consultant allergist for every two million people in the UK, compared to one per 100,000 for mainstream specialities, such as cardiology and gastroenterology

Allergy is three times as common now as it was 20 years ago

One third of the UK population - approximately 18 million people - will develop allergy at some time in their lives

Up to 40% of people with asthma are sensitive to pet allergens and up to 85% of people with asthma are sensitive to house dust mites About 20% of the population suffers from hay fever
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 23, 2005
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