Data from Adam Jeffery - Curated by EPG Health - Last updated 14 February 2019
Allergy is a global public health concern, with prevalence estimated to affect up to 40% of the population with that figure approaching 50% in children (WAO, 2013). In fact, the prevalence of allergic disease has steadily increased over recent decades, with food allergy being referred to as the ‘second wave’ of the allergy epidemic, the first being asthma and allergic rhinitis (Prescott & Allen, 2011). Complex allergies involving polysensitisation and multiple organs are also on the rise, creating an increased disease burden and placing a higher demand on healthcare services (WAO, 2013).
The theme of this year’s EAACI congress is ‘innovations for allergy’, reflective of Munich’s global scientific and technological status as this year’s host city, facilitating debate around novel solutions to the widespread and growing allergy epidemic.
The global market for ‘Internet of Things’ technologies in healthcare is set to grow from $58 billion in 2014 to over $400 billion in 2022, demonstrating a real step change in the use of tech for the advancement of human health (BI Intelligence, 2016). These devices include smart contact lenses that measure blood glucose in diabetics and ingestible sensors incorporated into medications to monitor adherence.
To generate conversation around the innovative solutions that will be discussed at EAACI, we started thinking what devices, if any, are in development or on the market that could address the allergy epidemic?
The Allergy Amulet
The wearable tech industry is booming, with worldwide sales totalling $30.5 billion in 2016/17 and forecasts predicting that number to double by 2021 (Gartner, 2017; IDC, 2017). This phenomenon has great potential in healthcare, however, the current products on the market are often clunky and ineffective, such as the rather unattractive AirTamer A310, and the consumer lacks choice, signifying a huge untapped potential.
Many people who suffer from food allergies often struggle, especially when eating out, to be certain that their meal won’t cause a severe reaction. The Allergy Amulet aims to overcome these fears by providing a small and wearable device that can detect food allergens, alerting the user to their presence (Allergy Amulet, 2018).
The device uses molecularly imprinted polymers, a material that has been processed using a technique that creates cavities within it that specifically complement the allergen’s shape, allowing the two to fit together like a lock and key. This polymer comes in the form of a strip that you dip into your meal and plug into the reader, analysing the sample and giving a simple yes/no answer. The amulet is linked with a mobile app that allows you to record and track your results, connect and share data with other users, and store information such as emergency contacts and medical history (Allergy Amulet, 2018).
Aibi is an anaphylaxis alert system concept designed to enable swift intervention for children upon the onset of a severe allergic reaction. It aims to address the current failures in adrenaline autoinjector use for children, providing simple instructions and alerting nearby caregivers via the app. This means that assistance can reach the child as quickly as possible, allowing them to help with autoinjector application as children may not have the strength to use it on their own, especially when suffering from anaphylaxis (Made by Chip, 2018).
Aibi consists of a bracelet and redesigned adrenaline autoinjector which plays a tone to make it easier to locate, with the label providing simple instructions that can be quickly interpreted. The bracelet contains photodiodes that constantly measure histamine levels which, upon the onset of an allergic reaction and the consequent spike in histamine, alerts the designated caregivers via the associated app, providing the location of the child and the nearest auto-injector to ensure the speedy application of life-saving adrenaline (Made by Chip, 2018).
In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians estimates that preventable factors are at play in two-thirds of asthma deaths, highlighting the severe need for improved adherence and better informed treatment regimens (Torjesen, 2014).
Hailie™ is a sensor that attaches to an existing inhaler to measure usage, sending that information to the supporting app. It has the potential to revolutionise asthma management through tracking adherence and dosage, setting reminders, predicting exacerbations and providing clinical teams with accurate data to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment regimen (Hailie, 2018). Results from a recent clinical study have been promising, with significant improvements seen in adherence, fewer hospital admissions and fewer courses of oral corticosteroids prescribed (Morton, et al. 2017).
Their use is supported by pharma as these devices help ensure patients are taking their medications properly, maximising the effectiveness of their drug, improving patient satisfaction and quality of life. A Goldman Sachs report states that another smart inhaler manufactured by Propeller Health, a competitor of Hailie™, could generate a healthcare saving of over $19 billion per year in the US alone when used by patients with asthma or COPD. The potential impact worldwide is monumental when you consider that these conditions effect 235 and 65 million people worldwide respectively (Goldman Sachs, 2015; WHO, 2018a; WHO, 2018b). Additionally, this figure doesn’t account for improvements in productivity and quality of life which would likely result in many tens of billions in increased economic activity.
What might the future hold?
These three devices demonstrate the exciting developments that are occurring in the field of allergy and clinical immunology. Smart inhalers will be discussed by Paul Hagedoorn at an interactive workshop entitled ‘eHealth and Asthma’ on Sunday, a symposium discussing online networks for airborne allergen monitoring will be happening on Tuesday, and several poster sessions will be taking place over the course of EAACI, presenting many of the latest innovations in allergy. Explore the full programme here.
Allergy Amulet. Frequently Asked Questions. 2018. Available from: http://www.allergyamulet.com/faqs/ (accessed 21 May 2018).
BI Intelligence. The global market for IoT healthcare tech will top $400 billion in 2022. 2016. Available from: http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-global-market-for-iot-healthcare-tech-will-top-400-billion-in-2022-2016-5 (accessed 23 May 2018).
Gartner. Gartner Says Worldwide Wearable Device Sales to Grow 17 Percent in 2017. 2017. Available from: https://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3790965 (accessed 21 May 2018).
Goldman Sachs. The Digital Revolution comes to US Healthcare. 2015. Available from: https://www.anderson.ucla.edu/Documents/areas/adm/acis/library/DigitalRevolutionGS.pdf (accessed 22 May 2018).
Hailie. 2018. Available from: https://nz.hailie.com/ (accessed 22 May 2018).
IDC. Worldwide Wearables Market to Nearly Double by 2021, According to IDC. 2017. Available from: https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS42818517 (accessed 21 May 2018).
Made by Chip. Aibi. 2018. Available from: http://madebychip.com/aibi.html (accessed 21 May 2018).
Morton RW, Elphick HE, Rigby AS, Daw WJ, King DA, Smith LJ, et al. STAAR: a randomised controlled trial of electronic adherence monitoring with reminder alarms and feedback to improve clinical outcomes for children with asthma. Thorax. 2017;72(4):347‒354.
Prescott S & Allen KJ. Food allergy: riding the second wave of the allergy epidemic. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2011;22(2):155‒60.
Torjesen I. Two thirds of deaths from asthma are preventable, confidential inquiry finds. BMJ. 2014;348:g3108.
World Allergy Organization (WAO). WAO White Book on Allergy: Update 2013. 2013. Available from: http://www.worldallergy.org/UserFiles/file/WhiteBook2-2013-v8.pdf (accessed 21 23 May 2018).
World Health Organization (WHO). Burden of COPD. 2018a. Available from: http://www.who.int/respiratory/copd/burden/en/ (accessed 22 May 2018).
World Health Organization (WHO). Fact Sheet on Asthma. 2018b. Available from: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/asthma (accessed 22 May 2018).
Resources & further reading
Orange – Wearable tech boom in healthcare
The Pharmaceutical Journal – Smart inhalers: will they help to improve asthma care?