Road map for the clinical application of the basophil activation test in food allergy

Clin Exp Allergy. 2017 Sep;47(9):1115-1124. doi: 10.1111/cea.12964. Epub 2017 Aug 1.


The diagnosis of IgE-mediated food allergy based solely on the clinical history and the documentation of specific IgE to whole allergen extract or single allergens is often ambiguous, requiring oral food challenges (OFCs), with the attendant risk and inconvenience to the patient, to confirm the diagnosis of food allergy. This is a considerable proportion of patients assessed in allergy clinics. The basophil activation test (BAT) has emerged as having superior specificity and comparable sensitivity to diagnose food allergy, when compared with skin prick test and specific IgE. BAT, therefore, may reduce the number of OFC required for accurate diagnosis, particularly positive OFC. BAT can also be used to monitor resolution of food allergy and the clinical response to immunomodulatory treatments. Given the practicalities involved in the performance of BAT, we propose that it can be applied for selected cases where the history, skin prick test and/or specific IgE are not definitive for the diagnosis of food allergy. In the cases that the BAT is positive, food allergy is sufficiently confirmed without OFC; in the cases that BAT is negative or the patient has non-responder basophils, OFC may still be indicated. However, broad clinical application of BAT demands further standardization of the laboratory procedure and of the flow cytometry data analyses, as well as clinical validation of BAT as a diagnostic test for multiple target allergens and confirmation of its feasibility and cost-effectiveness in multiple settings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Basophils / immunology*
  • Basophils / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Food / adverse effects
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Immunoassay / standards
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Tests


  • Biomarkers
  • Immunoglobulin E