Food allergies are on the rise but effective treatment in the pipeline
A stunning discovery based on epigenetics (the inheritance of propensities acquired in the womb) reveals that consuming choline - a nutrient found in eggs and other foods - during pregnancy may significantly affect breast cancer outcomes for a mother’s offspring. This finding by a team of biologists at Boston University is the first to link
Full Post: Eating eggs when pregnant may help prevent breast cancer in offspring
Experts in the U.S. say food allergies are on the rise and although strict avoidance is currently the only treatment, new effective therapies are currently being developed.
According to experts at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in Seattle, research shows that food allergies are increasing - especially peanut allergy, which has increased significantly.
Dr Sami Bahna, a professor of paediatrics & medicine and chief of Allergy & Immunology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Centre, says in the United States, food allergies are now estimated at 3.7% in adults and 6% in children.
Dr. Bahna says allergies and asthma are increasing, and the main manifestations of food allergy are increasing, including atopic dermatitis, anaphylaxis, and eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders.
He says random phone interviews in 2002 showed peanut and tree nut allergy in the general population to be 1.2%, double that of a similar survey in 1997.
Dr. Bahna blames the increasing causes of food allergy to the increase in:
Food consumption and obesity, including the highly allergenic foods fish, peanut, tree nuts, milk, egg and soy.
Eating out, and the prevalence of buffet restaurants and “all you can eat.”
Food varieties and food cross-reactivities with non-ingestant allergens, such as latex, cockroach, dust mite and pollen.
Commercial foods incorporating multiple nutrient and non-nutrient allergenic ingredients and the incorporation of food proteins in medical diagnostic and therapeutic agents particularly dermatologic.
According to Dr. Bahna, factors that seem to contribute to the increase in food allergy include the high survivorship of atopic subjects allowing the spread of the genetic traits; the hygiene hypothesis; caesarean section deliveries; use of antacids; and use of infant multivitamins.
He says reactions to food allergy can be severe and even fatal and current treatments are strict avoidance of the offending food, which is very difficult to accomplish, and treating reactions as they occur.
Dr Robert A. Wood, a professor of paediatrics and international health, and director of Paediatric Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, says there are currently three approaches to the treatment of food allergy in development: anti-IgE antibodies, Chinese herbal remedy and immunotherapy.
Dr Wood says anti-IgE therapy at the highest dose would protect most patients from reactions due to accidental exposures, but it is a medicine, not a vaccine, and it must be given on a continuous basis and although it could be used for any food allergy, it doesn’t work if patients are too allergic, and there are also concerns about its safety and cost.
The first clinical trial for food allergy was recently initiated with Chinese herbal formula FAHF-2 where studies in mice showed allergic reactions on a variety of measures of peanut allergy were markedly reduced and no side effects were seen.
Dr Wood says immunotherapy induces tolerance to an allergen by giving gradually increasing doses of the allergen and in food allergy, the risks of traditional immunotherapy have far outweighed the benefits, but new approaches may change this equation.
There have been several preliminary studies on oral or sublingual immunotherapy for food allergy with very encouraging results and strong evidence of at least short term desensitization - preliminary research has also found that modified allergens, including peptide vaccines and mutated recombinant vaccines, may be promising new treatments.
The Food Allergy Research Consortium, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is dedicated to the study of food allergy and has five years of initial funding.
Three studies are already underway - an observational study of infants with eczema and food allergy - oral egg immunotherapy and a sublingual peanut immunotherapy study.
A fourth study on recombinant peanut vaccine safety study is currently being developed.
Dr. Wood says progress will be slow, but a truly effective treatment for severe, persistent food allergy will be developed in the next 10-20 years.
Food allergy is the single leading cause of anaphylaxis, the most severe form of allergic reactions, affecting multiple organ systems.
Symptoms can include chest tightness, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, cramping, hives and swelling of the lips and joints but the most dangerous symptoms are breathing difficulties, throat swelling, chest wheezing, dizziness, low blood pressure, shock and loss of consciousness, all of which can be fatal.
Patients with severe reactions should have continued access to self-administered epinephrine injections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States in 2007 around 3 million children under 18 had food allergies - a rise of 18% since 1997. The CDC says in 2006 about 6.8 million children suffered from some sort of allergy and for some reason which remains unclear there
Full Post: Preventing food allergies in children - a change of strategy?
A Professor at Harvard Medical School suggests many people today are over-reacting to the threat of peanut allergies in children. According to Dr. Nicholas Christakis many parents are caught up in an “epidemic” of irrational fears about children having allergic reactions to peanuts products and are in the grip of “nut hysteria”. Dr. Christakis says
Full Post: Expert says gross over-reaction to peanuts to blame for ‘nut hysteria’
Chicago researchers report the development of a new mouse model for food allergy that mimics symptoms generated during a human allergic reaction to peanuts. The animal model provides a new research tool that will be invaluable in furthering the understanding of the causes of peanut and other food allergies and in finding new ways to
Full Post: New mouse model for peanut allergy
A team of scientists from across Europe are embarking on new research to develop a treatment for food allergy. “Food allergy affects around 10 million EU citizens and there is no cure,” says Dr Clare Mills of the Institute of Food Research, a lead partner in the Food Allergy Specific Therapy (FAST) research project. “All
Full Post: New European food allergy research
According to a recent study from the University and the University Central Hospital of Helsinki, Finland, no allergy-preventive effect is extended to age 5 years by perinatal supplementation with probiotics in babies at risk for developing allergies; protection is conferred only to Cesarean section babies. Childhood allergies have increased significantly in industrialized countries during the
Full Post: Probiotics prevent IgE-associated allergy until age 5 in cesarean-delivered children but not in total cohort