16. July 2020
Nasal swab can predict the severity of a pollen allergy

Researchers in Munich, Germany were able to predict the severity of symptoms in allergy sufferers even before the start of the pollen season. They did this by taking a swab from the nose.

The body’s own messenger substances, or biomarkers, on the nasal mucosa provide an indication of the severity of the pollen allergy even before the pollen season. Allergy sufferers with a high level of messenger substances on the nasal swab had significantly more severe symptoms during the next pollen season than allergy sufferers whose nasal secretion contained only a low level of messenger substances.

This finding was made by scientists from UNIKA-T, a research association at Helmholtz Zentrum München and the Technical University of Munich. The messenger substances are ‘pollen-specific immunoglobulin’, or antibodies to the respective pollen.

The messenger substances could help to:

  1. better identify the patients who benefit the most from treatment.
  2. better understand the processes at work during the development of allergies and prevent them.
  3. identify the physiological processes that originally cause symptoms.

“Possibly this could be a new starting point for the development of novel therapeutics“, says biochemist Mehmet Gökkaya from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Helmholtz Zentrum München.


HelmholtzZentrum. „Richtiger Riecher“: Nasale Biomarker für die Vorhersage der Symptomstärke bei Pollen-Allergikern und Nichtallergikern bestimmt (‘Right on the nose’: Nasal biomarkers for predicting symptom severity in pollen allergic and non-allergic patients). Helmholtz Zentrum München, press release from 30 April 2020.

Original publication

Gökkaya M. Defining biomarkers to predict symptoms in subjects with and without allergy under natural pollen exposure. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2020;pii:S0091-6749(20)30419-X.