POTENTIAL allergy sufferers could soon avoid the risk of a severe anaphylactic reaction when being tested for peanut intolerence.
Researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute have identified a new two-stage test that reduces the need to carry out oral tests.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Katie Allen said the tests are more precise than previous tests and would minimise the rate of over-diagnosing peanut allergies.
It is also hoped the test, if carried out more widely by pediatricians and general practitioners, could reduce long waiting times at specialist clinics.
The test is targeted at patients at high risk of developing a food allergy, such as those with a history of allergies, or those who may have experienced a reaction but needed a clear diagnosis.
Dr Allen said the test twice analysed the blood from one sample taken from the patient - first to test the whole peanut protein, and then to analyse part of the protein known as Arah2.
The institute's research found the two-step process greatly improved the precision of results, compared with a single test such as a skin prick test.
Dr Allen said about half of the positive skin prick tests were wrong.
She said the new test could stop overdiagnosis of peanut allergies and reduce five-fold the need for risky oral tests.
"We have people who have had a positive skin prick test who have never eaten a peanut and for 15 years may have been inadvertently avoiding a food they weren't even allergic to," she said.
"At the other end of the spectrum we have people where we ... have to put them through potentially dangerous tests where there is an anaphylaxis risk."
Dr Allen said it was hoped support could be provided to train pediatricians and GPs to use the test, reducing specialist waiting list times, which vary from 18 months and up to two years for oral tests.
"It's very hard for people to get into see us because we are so overwhelmed, so this is a desperate attempt to try to improve patient accessibility so we can provide the most appropriate care for the patients in the community that need it."
The institute's researchers carried out the tests on a group of 5300 infants from across metropolitan Melbourne.
About 200 of those who had peanut allergies confirmed through oral tests were accurately diagnosed by the two-stage screening process.
The research, completed in August 2011, has been published n the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.