A pragmatic primary practice approach to using specific IgE in allergy testing in asthma diagnosis, management, and referral

Pascal Demoly, Andrew H Liu, Pablo Rodriguez Del Rio, Soren Pedersen, Thomas B Casale, David Price* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Asthma afflicts an estimated 339 million people globally and is associated with ill health, disability, and early death. Strong risk factors for developing asthma are genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to inhaled substances that may provoke allergic reactions. Asthma guidelines recommend identifying causal or trigger allergens with specific IgE (sIgE) testing after a diagnosis of asthma has been made.
Allergy testing with sIgE targets subpopulations of patients considered at high risk, such as those with frequent exacerbations, emergency visits or hospitalizations, or uncontrolled symptoms. Specific recommendations apply to preschool children, school-age children, patients with persistent or difficult-to control-asthma, patients needing oral corticosteroids or high-dose inhaled steroids, patients seeking understanding and guidance about their disease, and candidates for advanced therapies (biologics, allergen immunotherapy).
Allergen skin testing is common in specialized settings, but less available in primary care. Blood tests for total and sIgE are accessible and yield quantifiable results for tested allergens, useful for detecting sensitization. Results are interpreted in the context of the patient’s clinical presentation, age, and relevant
allergen exposures. Incorporating sIgE testing into asthma management adds objective information to identify specific allergies and can guide personalized treatment plans, which reinforce patient-doctor communication. Test results can also be used to predict exacerbations and response to therapies.
Additional diagnostic information can be gleaned from (i) eosinophil count >300 μL, which significantly increases the odds of having exacerbations, and emerging eosinophil biomarkers (eg, eosinophil-derived neurotoxin), which can be measured in plasma or serum samples, and (ii) fractional exhaled nitric oxide
(FeNO), with values >25 ppb regarded as the cutoff for diagnosis, evaluating inhaled corticosteroid response, and of probable response to anti-IgE, anti-IL4 and anti-IL5 receptor biologics.
Referral to asthma/allergy specialists is warranted when the initial diagnosis is uncertain, and when asthma symptoms, impairment, or exacerbations are repeated or severe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1069—1080
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Asthma and Allergy
Issue number15
Early online date16 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Thermo Fischer Scientific for meeting support and writing assistance, and Sarah Staples, MA, ELS, for summarizing meeting discussions and assistance in manuscript preparation


  • primary care
  • allergy
  • asthma
  • sensitization
  • specific IgE
  • component resolved diagnostics


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