Sensitive and specific detection of potentially allergenic almond (Prunus dulcis) in complex food matrices by Taqman(®) real-time polymerase chain reaction in comparison to commercially available protein-based enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
ABSTRACT Currently, causative immunotherapies are lacking in food allergy. The only option to prevent allergic reactions in susceptible individuals is to strictly avoid the offending food. Thus, reliable labelling of allergenic constituents is of major importance, but can only be achieved if appropriate specific and sensitive detection techniques for foods with allergenic potential are available. Almond is an allergenic food that requires mandatory labelling on prepackaged foods and belongs to the genus Prunus. Species of this genus are phylogenetically closely related. We observed commercially available almond specific ELISA being highly cross-reactive with other foods of the Prunoideae family, resulting in a false-positive detection of up to 500,000 mg kg(-1) almond. Previously published PCR methods were reported to be cross-reactive with false positive results >1200 mg kg(-1). We describe the development of a novel almond specific real-time PCR, based on mutated mismatch primers and sequence specific Taqman(®) probe detection, in comparison with two quantitative commercially available ELISA. PCR sensitivity was investigated with chocolate, chocolate coating and cookies spiked between 5 and 100,000 mg kg(-1) almond. In all matrices almond was reproducibly detected by real-time PCR at the lowest spike level of 5 mg kg(-1). Further, between 100 and 100,000 mg kg(-1) spiked almond, the method featured good correlation between quantified copy numbers and the amount of spiked almond. Within this range a similar relation between detectable signal and amount of almond was observed for both PCR and ELISA. In contrast to ELISA the Taqman(®) real-time PCR method was highly specific in 59 food items with negligible cross-reactivity for a very limited number of Prunoideae foods. The real-time PCR analysis of 24 retail samples was in concordance with ELISA results: 21% (n=5) contained undeclared almond. This is the first completely disclosed real-time PCR method for a specific and potentially quantitative almond detection. This PCR method detects almond at a level where severe allergic reactions should not be expected for the majority of the almond allergic individuals.