Experimental Treatment for Food Allergies

By Heather Legg

We all know there is immunotherapy for hay fever or other environmental allergies, including insects and pollen. But those that suffer from food allergies don’t have this option. It is strict avoidance and diligent watching that food allergy sufferers have to live with. There is a recent study being conducted, however, that may have the potential to change this.

According to an article on physorg.com, “Researchers at National Jewish Medical and Research Center are conducting trials to evaluate a method to prevent allergic reactions to food. They are feeding peanut- and egg-allergic people increasing doses of an investigational protein extract from the foods to see if they can induce the participants’ immune systems to tolerate the food.”

What this means to us is that there is the possibility of finding a way similar to allergy shots to help relieve the risk of food allergies. Right now the experiments are focused on peanut and egg allergies, but I wonder if they are successful, will they branch out to the other high food allergens?

Though this method sounds risky, because the patients are actually ingesting tiny amounts of the allergen, it has been done is some European countries successfully already, you can read about a particular study with hazelnut allergies here.

If this type of treatment, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) proves to be successful, it will be a huge stride in fighting allergies. Not only will it take away the daily fear that food allergy patients and families live with, but it is easily administered without the pain of shots. Here are some more benefits of SLIT from achooallergy. This treatment is actually presently in practice for other types of allergies besides food and is found to be very successful, however there is no FDA approval as of yet.

By increasing the doses of the allergen, similar to allergy shots, the patient will build up a tolerance to the allergen. Every so often, the patient is evaluated and the dose increased.
Though he or she may not be able to actually eat a lot of the allergen, the fear of traces or cross contamination can be alleviated. Also if there is a reaction, it will be less severe.

“In traditional immunotherapy, the majority of hay fever patients achieve tolerance, which can last for years,” said Dr. Fleischer, the principal investigator for the National Jewish study. “We hope to achieve similar results for our food allergic patients.” This is definitely a study to keep our eyes on. More can be read on this study here.

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