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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Desensitizing Food Allergies Possible in New Study

An allergy happens when a protein causes antibodies to form in the body. The next time the body encounters that protein, the antibodies swing into action. This is good when the protein is on an attacking bacteria. When the protein is part of an otherwise useful and nourishing food, not so good.

So you might think that continual encounters with the protein would be a bad thing. Apparently not.

"Participants who took a daily dose of egg product over the two-year study period were able to build up their bodies' resistance to the point where most of them could eat two scrambled eggs without a reaction," said A. Wesley Burks, from Duke University Medical Center.

That quote is from Scientists look to 'desensitise' kids to food allergens by Stephen Daniells on the site.

The study is on-line ahead of print in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2006.09.016. "Egg oral immunotherapy in nonanaphylactic children with egg allergy" Authors: A. Buchanan, T. Green, S. Jones, A. Scurlock, L. Christie, K. Althage, P. Steele, L. Pons, R. Helm, L. Lee, A.W. Burks

The study was of a very small number of children, so it must be considered preliminary at best. However, the responses were promising.
The new claims from the Duke researchers and their collaborators at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are based on results from a small study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the two universities, of seven subjects (age range 1-7) who had a history of allergic reactions when they consumed eggs or egg products.

The participants were given small doses of powdered egg orally, mixed in food. "We started the subjects with a very small concentration of egg product - the equivalent of less than one-thousandth of an egg - and then we increased the dose every 30 minutes for eight hours in order to determine the highest dose that each subject could tolerate," explained Burks.

The children returned to the clinic every two weeks, and the researchers increased the doses until an equivalent of one-tenth of an egg was reached. This "maintenance dose" was continued for the rest of the study (24 months).

The researchers report that the children showed both an increase in tolerance to eggs and a decrease in the severity of their allergic reactions. Indeed, by the end of the study, the majority of the kids could tolerate two scrambled eggs with no adverse reactions.

This type of desensitization therapy, called oral immunotherapy (OIT) "works on a cellular level to alter specific the response of white blood cells (lymphocytes) that play a part in the immune response during allergic reactions."

Follow-up studies will be double-blind, giving a higher level of assurance to the results. Another study with higher doses of eggs is planned, and so is one using peanuts.

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