by Amit Chopra, Managing Director, India & South Asia, Thermo Fisher Scientific
The onset of monsoons in India provides relief from the intense heat, but it also brings a concurrent rise in allergies. Triggered by immunoglobulin E (IgE), an allergy is an exaggerated immune response, to substances such as particulate matter and pollen, specific types of foods and medications. Although allergies are generally non-life-threatening and can be managed with medications, their growing prevalence has become a major global health concern, impacting millions. Allergies are now ranked as the sixth leading cause of chronic diseases worldwide, posing complex challenges for individuals and healthcare systems alike.
Prevalence of allergies in India
In India, The Lancet reports an estimated 37.9 million asthma cases. This includes 11.3% of children aged 6-7 years grappling with allergic rhinitis. The surge in allergies within the Indian population can be attributed to various factors, including air pollution, dietary patterns, and genetic predispositions.
Air pollution: A pressing concern
India’s air pollution is among the highest around the world, caused by fossil fuel combustion, vehicular emissions, and growing industrialization. The consequences of air pollution extend to various health complications, notably the exacerbation of asthma, cardiovascular events, and allergic rhinitis. It is estimated that up to 30% of the Indian population experiences allergic rhinitis. Overlapping symptoms of allergic rhinitis with other conditions, such as the common cold, pose significant challenges in its diagnosis and effective management. While respiratory allergies remain a focal point, other conditions like eczema and food allergies warrant equal attention. Although the prevalence rates of these allergies may be low compared to high-income countries, the cumulative burden of allergic disorders on the Indian population remains significant.
Allergic sensitization to foods
The terms food allergy and food intolerance, though distinct are often used interchangeably. A food allergy is an immune response to a specific protein, identified as harmful or toxic by the body. Food intolerance or sensitivity, on the other hand, leads to digestive discomfort. Children with food allergies are two to four times more likely than adults to have asthma or inhalation allergies.
Eight allergens including milk, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, wheat, soy, and shellfish account for 90% of food allergies in children/ young adults. Ruling in or ruling out food allergies early is the key to improved patient management and overall well-being.
Need for early detection
Studies suggest that early detection, particularly in conditions like allergic rhinitis, holds immense value in treating allergies. Medical experts emphasize the importance of collaborating with clinicians to enable quicker, more accurate results and devising an effective treatment plan.
Dr. Sitesh Roy, US Board Certified Allergist & Immunologist, Founder Director, Dr. Roy Health Solutions Multispecialty Clinic, Mumbai explains, “As the body ages, it can respond differently to the changing environment. Often individuals attempt self-treatment with over-the-counter medicines, or their doctors only give symptomatic treatment without searching for the cause of the recurrent problems. An in-vivo or in-vitro allergy screening test is crucial to differentiate between allergic and non-allergic reactions, thereby enabling accurate treatment for efficient long-term symptom management.”
Precise diagnosis is of utmost importance in effectively managing allergies. Healthcare providers necessitate supplementary information to comprehensively assess patient risk, make informed decisions regarding allergen-specific immunotherapy (AIT), and ascertain potential cross-reactions across different sensitizations.Speaking on the need for early evaluation, Dr. Shalini Tyagi, MD, DNB (Pediatrics), Allergy and Asthma Specialist at Metro Hospitals, Noida further added, “Allergy, with its high prevalence, serves as an underlying catalyst for numerous diseases, such as asthma, sinusitis, and ear infections, often concealing its profound impact on our well-being. Scientific diagnosis and appropriate treatment are the need of the hour to address this concern.”
Choosing the right allergy testing panel
The global allergy diagnostic market was valued at USD 4.8 bn in 2021 and is estimated to reach USD 10.03 bn by 2028, highlighting the growing importance of allergy diagnosis, globally. Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, recognizes the compelling need to address the prevalence and impact of allergies and offers a comprehensive testing portfolio for allergies and immunotherapy.
Thermo Fisher’s ImmunoCAPTM allergy solutions resulting from over five decades of research are the gold standard in in-vitro allergy diagnostics for clinically accurate and relevant testing of rhinitis, asthma, and allergens from different sources. When combined with clinical history, the ImmunoCAPTM testing solutions increase the certainty of diagnosis from 50-90%.
ImmunoCAP’s specific IgE blood testing is more effective than skin-prick testing and serves as a valuable diagnostic decision-making tool enabling healthcare professionals to devise effective treatment strategies.
In addition, Thermo Fisher’s fully automated Phadia Laboratory Systems are designed to optimize workflow efficiencies over a large test menu for the diagnosis of allergy and autoimmune diseases.
Speaking on Thermo Fisher’s efforts in the allergy testing space, Amit Chopra, Managing Director, India & South Asia, said, “At Thermo Fisher Scientific we are committed to transforming research into differentiated products to create value for our customers. We work closely with medical experts to understand their needs and strengthen and expand our diagnostic capabilities for the detection and management of allergies and autoimmune diseases.”
As a part of its future initiatives, Thermo Fisher is working on the latest advancements in Component Resolved Diagnosis, to provide clinicians with in-depth information to evaluate the patient’s risk for allergic reactions, aid the selection of the proper treatment extract of Allergen Specific Immunotherapy (AIT) and understanding cross-reactions between species.
In conclusion, allergies can range in severity and affect people of all ages. By seeking medical advice and with the right approach, individuals can manage allergies effectively and improve their overall well-being. Additionally, ongoing research and advancements in allergy treatment continue to offer new approaches and potential future breakthroughs in allergy management.