Prevalence of Food Allergy
and Potential Therapies 

A round-up from the thirteenth international food allergy conference held during the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Miami Beach, Florida, by Frances Dale.

Prevalence of Food Allergy

According to Robert Wood, professor of pediatrics & international health, and director, pediatric allergy and immunology, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md, the prevalence of food allergy is 6–8% of young children, and 2–3% of adolescents and adults, and it appears to be rising sharply.

"The prognoses for the resolution of milk, egg, wheat and soy allergy are worse in more recent studies than previously reported," said Dr. Wood. "Whether these findings represent a true change in the natural history of these allergies, or a unique, highly atopic population, remains to be determined. Peanut allergy is less often outgrown, but more often than previously thought," he said.

The loss of food allergy is complete tolerance to a food that previously caused a clinical reaction said Dr. Wesley Burks, MD, professor and chief, pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medicial Center in Durham, N.C. Peanut allergy is outgrown in 20% young children, generally by school age, whereas 60% of children outgrow milk, egg, wheat and soy allergies.

Food allergy is the most common cause of visits for anaphylaxis treated in Emergency Departments. Nearly 15% of patients per year have accidental reactions.

Potential Therapies

Studies indicate anti-IgE monoclonal antibody therapy (and IgE ‘vaccination’) may be effective in 75% of patients, but it must be given on a continuous basis, and there are concerns about its safety and cost.

"Herbal remedies that have been used in Asia for centuries are under investigation in the United States – specifically the Chinese medicine FAHF-2 which has been used in mouse models for peanut allergy and which is looking promising in early human studies," Dr. Burks said.

Therapies that are allergen-specific include heat-denatured protein, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), engineered recombinant protein, and oral immunotherapy (OIT).

Investigations into the use of baked or extensively heated food for daily ingestion in certain patients are successfully promoting desensitization and or tolerance to foods, such as milk and egg products.

Preliminary studies on oral or sublingual immunotherapy for food allergy have had very encouraging results, with strong evidence of at least short term desensitisation.

‘Engineered’ peanut proteins have also been used in a mouse model of to help prevent anaphylaxis in the peanut-allergic mice.

For a fuller report

First published in November 2009


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