Which test is best for diagnosing peanut allergy in South African children with atopic dermatitis?

Claudia Liesel Gray, Michael E Levin, George du Toit


Background. Diagnosing peanut allergy based on sensitisation alone leads to an unacceptable rate of overdiagnosis.

Objective. To define parameters that may help differentiate peanut allergy from asymptomatic sensitisation in a cohort of South African (SA) children with atopic dermatitis (AD). It is the first study in SA to utilise oral food challenge tests and analyse peanut component patterns.

Methods. This was a prospective, observational study at a paediatric university hospital in Cape Town, SA. Children with AD, aged 6 months - 10 years, were recruited randomly. They were assessed for sensitisation and allergy to peanut by questionnaire, skin-prick tests (SPTs), immuno solid-phase allergen chip (ISAC) tests, ImmunoCAP component tests to Ara h 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9, and incremental food challenges.

Results. One hundred participants (59 Xhosa (black Africans) and 41 of mixed race, median age 42 months) were enrolled. Overall, 44% of patients were peanut sensitised and 25% had a true peanut allergy. SPTs and ImmunoCAP Ara h 2 produced the highest areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve for predicting peanut allergy in peanut-sensitised patients. The ISAC test was less sensitive, more specific and produced significantly lower median values than ImmunoCAP tests. Ara h 2 was the most useful component in differentiating allergy from tolerance in both ethnic groups, being positive in 92% of allergic and 40% of sensitised but tolerant children (p<0.001). There was little additional contribution from Ara h 1 and 3. Ara h 8 and 9 were associated with tolerance. Commonly used 95% positive predictive values (PPVs) for SPTs, peanut-specific IgE and Ara h 2 levels fared suboptimally in our population. Maximum PPVs for this study population were found at SPT 11 mm, peanut IgE 15 kU/L and ImmunoCAP Ara h 2 of 8 kU/L, but these adjusted levels still had suboptimal PPVs in Xhosa subjects. Severe peanut allergy was associated with increased median peanut IgE and Ara h 2.

Conclusions. The component Ara h 2 was useful for differentiating allergy from tolerance in both ethnic groups in this SA cohort. Ninety-five percent PPVs for peanut allergy tests may need to be revised, especially in Xhosa patients. An SPT result ≥11 mm as well as Ara h 2 ≥8 kU/L had the best predictive value for peanut allergy.  

Authors' affiliations

Claudia Liesel Gray, Division of Allergology, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

Michael E Levin, Division of Allergology, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

George du Toit, King’s College London, King’s Health Partners, MRM & Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma, and Department of Paediatric Allergy, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

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Peanut allergy; Predictive values of tests; ROC curves; 95% positive predictive value; skin prick tests; Component sensitisation; Ara h 2

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(2):214-220. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i2.10125

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-09-29
Date published: 2016-01-06

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