Team:Tsinghua-A/Human Practices

public views on allergen testing


A questionnaire survey that aims to investigate public views on allergen testing has been done at the first stage of our project, which also made a contribution to finding the stakeholder and potential users of the products we developed. The questionnaire is designed carefully, as it spreads in social networks. However, it is a pity that we can run more statistical tests to estimate the characteristics of the population as we do not have an unbalanced and random-sampling sample. Whereas we use biased sampling method, the analysis of results indeed gives us hints about how to improve our project and help us to find the proper application field.


  • To investigate the popularity of allergen testing in public
  • To find out the people's views on the allergen testing the have done
  • To find the stakeholders and potential users of our projects
  • Improve our project and design Human Practice activities by analyzing the survey results
  • Methodology

    Convenience Sampling

    The convenience sampling is simple and easy to do. With this method, we can timely access to required information, saving the time and fund. From the point of view of convenience, investigators randomly selected a certain number of samples within the scope of the survey object for investigation. However, in practice, not all individuals in the population are the same, so the sampling results deviation is large, the credibility is low and the sample does not have enough representativeness. As we know little about the population that has got an allergen testing, in this survey we use convenience sampling at first to test our questionnaire and gets the basic data, which let us have a preliminary understanding of the respondents.

    Snowball Sampling

    Snowball sampling refers to interviewing randomly selected respondents and then asking them to recommend subjects that accord with the overall characteristics of the study objectives. This method can control the sample according to some sample characteristics and is suitable for finding some respondents who are very rare in the whole. This method can greatly increase the possibility of contacting the survey group, with relatively low funds and strong feasibility. In this survey, we were unable to obtain hospital diagnostic information and people who had been tested for allergens were relatively hidden. Thus, we used snowball sampling to encourage respondents to pass questionnaires to people around them who had allergies or who might have been tested for allergens.

    Online Survey

    We did an online survey that is based on Wechat - the most popular social network in China. The questionnaire is showed on screen as it showed on a paper. And the respondents need to tap the proper options or type in their answer, which is more convenient than the traditional paper way. But the drawback of this method is also obvious. This survey can only collect data from the certain population with a smartphone and a Wechat account, which is highly possible to result in an unbalance sample. We will further discuss this dilemma in the section of sample characteristics analysis.


    Analysis of Sample Characteristics

    The final sample was formed by the first sample with convenience sampling and the latter sample with snowball sampling. And we focus on the following characteristics of the sample, which help us to analyze the sampling way we design and the population.


    As it shows in the pie charts, the respondents of 40-60 years old take up over 60% of the sample, while the old whose age is over 60 occupy the least. This result gives us hints that the sample way we choose is easier to get feedback among people in 22-60 years old.

    Family Income

    It is showed in the figure that the households of middle class prefer to fulfill the questionnaire rather than others. This is probably because most of these families have smart phone and social network, which are both essential to fulfill the questionnaire.


    In this circle chart, it is obvious that the female respondents occupy the majority.


    From the diagram, we can know that the high education respondents make up over 80% of the sample.

    Biology or Clinic Background

    From the charts, it is worth noticing that the respondents whose family has biology or clinic background occupy a proportion about 29%, which is surprisingly higher than we expected.

    According to the displayed statistics, the respondents of our survey are mostly the young and middle-aged who live in a middle-class family. And people who are female or have a biology or clinic background are more likely to answer our questionnaire. One reason for this result is that our survey is based on social networks and this certain population of people is more likely to have chances to use the social network and answer the questions. Besides, it can also be considered as people with these characteristics are more interested in allergy and allergen testing.

    Popularity of Allergen Testing

    In the questionnaire, we designed a question used to investigate the allergy frequency of people. The answer '1' means respondents are never allergy while '5' means they face allergy issues all the time. From the charts, it is clear that people never allergy only make of 30% while who frequently allergy occupied over 12.2%. People who have ever get allergy take up a majority parts of sample, which indicates that the snowball sampling is worked and help us to target to the expect population.

    However, the result of another question that 'Would you seek medical advice for allergy' is a bit negative. Only half of the respondents will seek medical help even if they are allergic, which means that they probably have not attached adequate importance to allergy.

    Meanwhile, the patients who choose to take an allergen testing occupy only a quarter. It is a hint that the allergy testing is not as popular as we think in China.

    Views On Allergen Testing

    In this part of the investigation, we mainly focus on what kinds of the allergen testing methods are popular and how respondents think about it.

    The first result is about the popularity of various allergen testing methods. From the bar chart, it is obvious that the skin test is absolutely the mainstream, which is known by almost 90 percent of respondents. The detection of food intolerance is also popular as food intolerance often happens in China.

    Skin test is known by most people.

    Besides, as the recall of respondents who have ever done an allergy testing, the allergy test they take are mostly skin test. In addition, it is noticeable that approximate 15% of respondents do not know the allergy testing method they experienced, which implies us that the popularity of allergen testing may not be done well even in hospital.

    Skin test is the most popular method.

    Another fact that we are interested in is the price of allergy testing, so we designed a question that ask for expect price as respondent's wish. And about 83% of respondents choose the answer that the price of it should be under 300 RMB, which is equal to approximate 45 US dollar. As we know, the expectation price in hospital is far higher than this.

    Most people expect lower price.

    And we also collect views of the public on the popularity of allergen testing and the privacy of personal allergen information. As the bar charts demonstrated below, over 36% of respondents highly agree that allergen testing is worth popularizing while approximate same proportion of respondents highly disagree that the personal allergen information should be accessible to the public. This result implies us that respondents expect the popularity of allergen testing but also worry about the privacy protection of personal allergen information.

    Opinions on whether allergen testing should be popularizing are divided.


    The analysis of the questionnaire survey results helps us to point out the characteristics of the sample, which also makes contributions to evaluate our sampling methods. It also gives us follow inspirations about our human practice activities and project developments.

  • As the result of survey, the allergen testing is not as popular as we expect in China. So, we tend to design a human practice activity to popularize knowledge about allergy and allergen testing. The targeted population should be those who suffer from allergy but have not taken it serious enough. Also, we want to share more knowledge about allergy to the kids because they are harder to express their feeling than adults. Thus, we choose to hold an exhibition in China Science and Technology Museum.
  • From the result, we have some ideas about the stakeholders and potential users of our project. They can be population who suffer from frequently allergy and are eager to find a convenient and cheap way to do allergen testing, at the same time the personal allergen information of them can also keep privacy safely. Besides, we should try to co-operate with hospitals and medical school to get more information about allergen testing methods used in clinic now and the feedback of patients.
  • We try to design a hardware that can ensure our testing can even run in family by people without professional knowledge. This kind of household allergen testing is ultimately convenient and cheap, also it protects the privacy of patient well.
  • experts' view
    A visit to Peking Union Medical College Hospital

    On Sep. 22nd, 2018, 3 representations of Tsinghua-A went to PUMCH to meet two clinicians that we have contacted previously.

    The first clinician was Dr. Gu, from the department of allergy.

    At the beginning, Dr. Gu gave us a very perspicuity demonstration on allergy reactions. Our talk went through the whole 4 types of allergic reactions in clinical definitions respectively, including the causes, the symptoms, the biochemical processes in cells, and how will doctors treat with those situations. Dr. Gu’s review helped us to clarify a lot of details. For example, we found that, the most rewarding as well as the best applied situation in the allergy reactions are Type I hypersensitivity (or immediate hypersensitivity), for which the exposure may be by ingestion, inhalation, injection, or direct contact.

    What’s more? During those days, we were also preparing for the exhibition in China Science and Technology Museum, so the review by Dr. Gu also inspired us how to make publicity to ordinary people. Above all, we could make sure that what we would disseminate was accurate, and after that we could try to demonstrate the allergy reaction process in the same Framework as Dr. Gu did, which was very easy to understand.

    When this section was finished, we started to ask for some clinical data and experience which correlated tightly with our project.

    Those facts and details included that histamine release in Type I hypersensitivity was within several mines, and remains for about 1h; the survival time of immunocytes by the normal way of storage since separated from body was about 24h; the volume of blood sample we were supposed to collect from finger was 10-20μl; the settings of controlled trials for every single test can help to get rid of the influence of Basophil count randomness, etc

    The second clinician was Dr. Zhao, from the department of General Surgery.

    He told us that himself is allergic to dust mite. And he had the experiment of treatment, so as both clinician and patient, he gave us several application possibilities at both hospital and home.

    For the application at hospital, the blood could be collected via Hemospasia from vein, which just needed inserting the needle for one time. It’s already better than Skin Prick Test, for firstly it was in vitro and secondly it only made patient feel “hurt” for one time. And as for the required blood volume for each certain allergen test was relatively small, maybe over 200 allergens could be test with the blood sample collect from the patient at the same time.

    For the application at home, it could be used by those patient being treated with desensitization therapy. They had to tracking therapeutic effect, and without our system, they would need return visits to hospital frequently. But once they got our system, they could do finger blood collection with simple hemostix themselves, and test the histamine release to the specific allergen, to which they are treated to get desensitization. Week by week, they could learn about the degree of desensitization they had achieved.

    Upon the completion of project, I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to those two doctors, Dr. Gu and Dr. Zhao, who gave us important guidance on project designing and allergy studying. Without their help and encouragement, our work would not have been such an integral project.

    The fifth Conference of China iGEMer Community

    The fifth Conference of China iGEMer Community (CCiC) we attended in August was accredited by the iGEM authority. In the conference, we presented our team’s poster and demonstrated the project. With abundant preparations and excelsior attitudes, we achieved great success and high reputation.

    Every night during the conference, our poster attracted a number of students from other universities to discuss with us. After a short period of dissemination, our project’s designs and effects were learned by almost all participants. While giving publicity to ourselves, we paid attention to other teams’ lecture and presentation, taking notes and discussing together late in the hotel.

    On the last day, our representation was splendid due to lucid logical structure and full plans to answer the questions raised by famous iGEMer, the special guest of the conference Zhang Haoqian, and get recognition from all guests present.

    Public engagement
    From Microbe to Biological Sensor