Food allergy is a topic that has been plaguing America for decades. While there have been a number of studies carried out on it, none have been 100% successful so far and avoidance of the offending food stuff had been advised as the best way to combat the problem. However, researchers who are looking into this particular aspect are now extremely hopeful of being able to fight allergies with immunotherapy.
This is a specialized treatment that tends to alter the response of our immune system to substances that were previously considered to be allergens. The general procedure involves introducing the offending food in miniscule quantities on a regular basis until the patient gets used to it and is desensitized. The dosage is increased bit by bit with the aim of making the patient tolerate the food ultimately thus overcoming the allergy.
The recent results related to immunotherapy and food allergies were published in the “New England Journal of Medicine” . The studies were carried out on 55 children with egg allergy aged between 5 to 11 years. Forty of them were given a little egg white powder every day orally for 10 minutes initially while the dosage was maintained for an additional 22 months. The rest were put on placebo treatment. However, the doctors are perplexed at the results as only 10 of the children could successfully be declared as desensitized and could eat eggs at the end of the experiment. The reason for failure of the others to adjust to the allergen still remains a mystery. However, this is a beginning of sorts and the chairman of the “Department Of Pediatrics At UNC School Of Medicine”, Dr. Wesley Burks says, "It really does give us great hope that there can be a treatment developed in the future." Similar experiments have also been tried on children with peanut and dairy allergies before.
According to the statistics available from “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” about 4%-6% of the children in USA are prone to food allergies which can be deadly . Avoidance of the food is not always the proper answer since there are quite a few food items liable to contain the allergens without it being obvious. This is especially true of the ones marketed by fast food companies.
The professor of immunobiology at the Yale Medical school hailed this study as a moving forward procedure. He also emphasized that it would be a path breaking discovery enroute to finding an effective treatment for food allergies if the researchers manage to figure out the reason behind why the procedure works for some and fails to work in others. The long term efficacy of the treatment is also another factor that requires extensive research. Dr. Burks hopes that we would be able to have all the answers within the next 5 to 10 years at most.
Please continue with the usual precautions for food allergies in the mean time and do not even think of trying this experiment at home. It needs to be done under proper conditions and medical supervision and you are likely to benefit from immunotherapy once it becomes widely acceptable.
Image Credit- eggdesensitization