New App Acts as Allergy Biosensor

By Emily Murray

For many children and adults alike, food allergies can be deadly. For those who have a known allergy, ordering at a restaurant and double, even triple, checking that the ingredient is not included can be tedious and in some cases, flawed. A new iPhone app however may eliminate the worry of dining out.

Food allergies affect nearly 3 million children under 18 years of age according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The most common and serious childhood allergy is to peanuts. While reactions vary, peanut allergies may result in swelling that can cut off the air supply. In some cases, even multiple epinephrine shots are unable to reverse the reaction. So what’s the next best solution? Knowing that food contains the allergen prior to eating it…minus the potential for human error.

Students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed the technology for an iPhone to sense not only allergens but also bacteria, toxins, protein, viruses and other things we may want to avoid while eating.

A cradle can be simply added to any iPhone and a small portion of the food can be broken up. It is then added to a liquid, filtered out and run through the sensor. The spectrum on the screen changes color if peanuts are present. If not, you can confidently eat your meal knowing that you will not have an allergic reaction.

This new technology falls in line with many other medical apps that have developed over the last few years. As smartphones continue in their surge of popularity, we can expect more and more medical monitoring devices to emerge.