Food Allergy Studies and Treatments

Food Allergy Studies and Treatments

Food allergies made headlines in 2009 with what many thought was a food allergy “cure”. There currently is no FDA approved cure for food allergies, however scientists are working on several potential treatments that may lead to one. Some allergists think the goal might be reached within the next 5-10 years.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

One such treatment is sublingual immunotherapy. Sublingual ("under the tongue") immunotherapy is the regular administration of increasing doses of an allergen. Once a target dose has been reached the allergen is then given regularly.

Oral Immunotherapy

Another treatment is oral immunotherapy. This treatment is the one that has received the most media coverage and is further along the research path. Oral immunotherapy also involves the administration of an allergen in increasing doses but the dose is swallowed as opposed to being dissolved under the tongue.

In a recent study at Duke University, several peanut allergic children underwent oral immunotherapy and reached the maintenance level without reaction. However, it is still not clear as to whether this is an allergy cure or tolerance development. Patients in the study may not be able to keep their tolerance level up without regular maintenance doses.

It's also important to remember that this was a small sample size of individuals who met a specific criteria. Some who applied were not allowed into the study and some who started the study had severe enough reactions that they could not continue. In the long run, this treatment might not be for all allergy sufferers.

Food Allergies and Allergy Shots

Many people wonder why they can not get allergy shots for food allergies like they do for their environmental or venom allergies. Allergy shots have been tried in the past. However, Hugh A. Sampson, MD, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, is working on another treatment called peptide immunotherapy with the hope of developing a peanut allergy vaccine. Peptide immunotherapy involves the use of recombinant proteins, immunostimulatory proteins, plasmid DNA, plant-derived remedies (FAHF-2), and anti-IgE. The research for peptide Immunotherapy is in the early stages.

A milk allergy study is also currently underway that involves taking anti allergy medication for some amount of time and then consuming small amounts of dairy protein to build up resistance. Over time the patient weans off the anti allergy medication and is left eating dairy without reaction. Results thus far have been promising.

An estimated 12 million Americans have food allergies and the numbers are reportedly rising. While there currently is no cure and individuals should not try any of the above treatments at home, more and more scientists are focusing on and working towards treatments that will hopefully one day bring relief to the food allergy community.

article by Ruth Smith. Ruth is the mother of a child with multiple life threatening food allergies and founder of Best Allergy Sites: a food allergy directory and resource guide.

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