TNO presence at FAAM – the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting

From 18 to 20 October the 5th Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting (EAACI-FAAM 2018) was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Approximately 1100 attendees interested in a variety of aspects of food allergy came to the meeting in which international speakers were sharing their knowledge in plenary sessions, workshops, oral abstract sessions and poster presentations (See program). The Food Allergy team of TNO was represented well and provided several presentations in different areas.

Jolanda van Bilsen and Marjolein Meijerink gave two presentations on new methods to select/identify candidate biomarkers using systems biology approaches. Jolanda’s presentation called The impact of oral immune interventions: a systems biology strategy for predicting adverse and beneficial immune effects demonstrated a systems biology approach to identify key immune pathways involved in immune health endpoints which helped to build a screening tool to rank crucial biomarkers that predict adverse and beneficial effects of nutritional immune interventions. Marjolein’s presentation called A network-based prediction of suitable markers and assays for gut functioning upon nutritional immune interventions demonstrated how systems biology can help on one hand to clarify the relationships between the immune system and gut functioning, and on the other hand, the identification of crucial biomarkers to monitor effects on gut functions upon nutritional immune interventions. Manuscripts of both presentations will be submitted for publications soon.

Jolanda van Bilsen also presented a method to select/identify candidate biomarkers by using the computational approaches of Bayesian networks (BN) and Topological Data Analysis (TDA). In the presentation Network-based approach for identifying suitable biomarkers for oral immunotherapy of food allergy mechanistic features between two different food allergies were compared and the biological relevance of biomarker (panels) of OIT for food allergy were determined.  She showed that the key drivers that influence peanut (PNA) and cow’s milk allergy (CMA) are similar, but that these phenotypically similar diseases show mechanistic differences in their subnetworks. These new insights provide excellent starting points to generate new hypotheses to explain why CMA has a different disease pattern than PNA and to select biomarkers that are useful in future clinical studies. This work has recently been submitted for publication.

Ben Remington presented results of research to quantify the worst-case transfer of peanut containing residue from shared cooking utensils in restaurant kitchens. Restaurant best practices indicate that any food equipment (i.e. utensils, pots, pans, cooking surfaces, etc) intended for allergy-free food use must be cleaned and sanitized before use, but this does not always happen. Three peanut containing sauce recipes were designed to resemble major themes in Asian cooking and residue amounts on the utensil were measured after cooking.  Potential sauce transfer amounts varied dependent on sauce and utensil. Additionally, the common practice of rinsing of kitchen utensils in a shared pot of warm water was effective in removing the majority but not all of the sauce residue on utensils as sauce residue was still found on all utensils post rinse. The results of the this study confirm the existence of risks to a peanut-allergic consumer when choosing to eat at Asian-Indian restaurants that cook with shared utensils. Rinsing utensils with warm water reduces this risk but additional measures by restaurants and/or allergic individuals are needed to fully mitigate the risk of an allergic reaction.

In the session on Food Allergens, Marty Blom presented the collaborative research of TNO (Kitty Verhoeckx) and the University Medical Center of Utrecht (Mark Blankestijn) on the identification of a new walnut allergen to which part of the walnut allergic population is sensitized. It was shown that a subset, 27%, of walnut allergic adults is sensitized to walnut 11S globulin Jug r 4. This was recently published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy, by Blankestijn et al DOI:10.1111/cea.13208. Marty also presented on the sensitivity analysis that was done to derive a food consumption point estimate for allergen risk assessment. This is work performed in the recently finished in the EU project iFAAM. Based on the analyses it was concluded that the 75th percentile of the food group distribution is the optimal point estimate for consumption in allergen risk assessments based on VITAL 2.0 criteria and the iFAAM Tier 1 RA tool. A  manuscript will be submitted soon. During the International Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance (IFAAA) and Food Allergy Research and Education meeting for patient groups and stakeholders on Wednesday 17th of Oct preceding the FAAM meeting, one of the co-authors from the iFAAM project, Professor Charlotte Madsen explained the importance of this point estimate for food consumption as well.

Overall, the TNO representatives provided presentation on a diversity of topics in the Food Allergy and Immune Health area in which we are working. Further, the meeting provided an excellent opportunity to meet new and current collaborators in the field.