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Sarah S. Kehl, M.D.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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Emerging therapies in food allergies

Posted by on in Allergy
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From heating foods to boiling to crossing pollen with fruit, scientists are working on new and interesting ways to help those with food or oral allergies prevent severe reactions. Here’s a look into some of the research.

Milk and egg allergy research

It might seem counterintuitive to give a patient with a food allergy that particular food. But studies show that doing so may actually help patients tolerate them. Such seems to be the case in children who’ve been given highly heated milk or eggs on a regular basis.

milk allergyIn studying this potential therapy, scientists identified a group of children who produce the allergic antibody, IgE, against part of the egg or milk protein that gets destroyed during extensive heating. On average, 80 percent of children who are allergic to milk or egg produce this antibody.

As part of an “oral food challenge,” the children were given small amounts of baked goods containing milk or egg, then monitored for the development of allergic symptoms. Patients who passed the challenge were asked to add the food to their diet. Preliminary findings suggest that adding the baked goods improved their tolerance.

In another study, scientists researching epicutaneous immunotherapy asked subjects to apply to the skin a patch with powdered milk for 48 hours, three times a week, for three months. Definitive results are still out on this one, but some subjects were able to tolerate a higher dose of milk after therapy.

Oral allergy research

Oral allergy syndrome is caused by cross-reactions between various pollens and certain fruits and vegetables. It triggers mild symptoms, such as tingling or itching in the mouth; symptoms are lessened if the fruit is cooked.

Researchers found that by actively addressing tree pollen issues, cross-reactions could be minimized. In one trial, patients with oral allergy syndrome were given allergy injections of birch tree pollen, then were asked to eat apples. They found that about 80 percent of those who participated had reduced symptoms.

Hazelnut allergy research

For those allergic to hazelnuts, research into sublingual immunotherapy has shown some positive results. As part of this experiment, the test subject is given the extract of an allergic food – in this case hazelnut extract – and asked to hold it in the mouth for 1 to 3 minutes before spitting it out. The dose is gradually increased, and then patients are kept on a maintenance schedule they perform at home. Results show that after five months of this therapy, test subjects were able to ingest five times more hazelnut compared to the placebo group.

Peanut allergy research

Preliminary studies in humans are under way to examine a combination of nine herbs that has been shown to completely block anaphylaxis to peanut in mice after five months of therapy, known as Chinese herbal medicine FAHF-2.

Keeping you in the know

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network is a wonderful resource for patients with food allergies. You can find information, individualized for each food allergen, on how to read ingredient labels, product recalls, recipes for tasty allergen-free dishes and a video demonstration of how to use an EpiPen.

The field of food allergies is rapidly expanding, and we hope to have new treatments available to our patients in the near future. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your own food allergies and what you can do to stay safe.

Dr. Sarah Kehl brings to Oak Street Medical her combined expertise as a board certified allergy/immunology specialist and pediatrician. Warm and approachable, Dr. Kehl tries to put all of her patients at ease.