Treatments being developed that could make it possible for people with food allergies to eat trigger foods without having allergy symptoms, researchers claim
March 7, 2012
– Currently, there is no cure for food allergy and no medication to prevent reactions. The only way to avoid a reaction is strictly avoiding the trigger food. This can be tricky because you have to carefully read food labels and ask about ingredients when eating food prepared by another person.
Yet, thanks to research from the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), more clues are falling into place regarding the prospects for safe treatments for food allergy.
Two potential treatments are sublingual immunotherapy and oral immunotherapy. The goal of immunotherapy is to build up your immune system. Your body responds to gradually increasing doses of the allergen by developing immunity or tolerance to it. The difference between sublingual and oral immunotherapy is that the allergen is held under the tongue with sublingual, where the allergen is simply swallowed with oral immunotherapy.
New research from the 2012 AAAAI Annual Meeting found that children with severe milk allergy who received a longer schedule of sublingual immunotherapy and then moved to oral immunotherapy had less respiratory reactions along with less frequent use of certain medications.
“While the overall result of the study, which was recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that oral was far more effective than sublingual immunotherapy, it was also clear that oral was associated with more significant allergic reactions to the treatment,” said senior study author Robert A. Wood, MD, FAAAAI, director of Allergy & Immunology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
In their previous research, sublingual was compared to oral immunotherapy after a short period of increasing sublingual doses. To add another piece to the puzzle, the same researchers from Johns Hopkins and Duke University decided to see if a longer period on sublingual and then oral immunotherapy would improve the safety of the treatment.
Thirty children with cow’s milk allergy were randomly placed into two groups that received either a short or longer sublingual schedule followed by oral immunotherapy. Eight sublingual subjects moved over to oral immunotherapy. After comparing reactions across the doses, the study authors concluded that the longer sublingual schedule before moving to oral immunotherapy appeared to improve safety although it did not eliminate all symptoms. Symptoms occurred with approximately 25% of 2,251 doses.
While the overall rates of reaction between the two groups were similar, the longer sublingual immunotherapy group followed by oral immunotherapy had fewer lower and upper respiratory reactions and used antihistamines and inhaled beta-agonists less frequently.
“We continue to search for the best approach for the treatment of food allergy. This study shows that for at least some children, especially those with more frequent or severe reactions to oral immunotherapy, beginning treatment with sublingual might be beneficial,” emphasized Dr. Wood.
The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has nearly 6,500 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist/Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.