Safety of a rapid food allergy treatment regimen, paves the way for faster treatment

Posted on behalf of Lisa Hussey, Associate Publisher, BioMed Central

Food allergies affect up to 8% of children in the US, and 30% of those affected have more than one allergy. It has been estimated that food allergies cost US$25 billion each year, with approximately US$20 million borne by families of people with food allergies.

Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is an effective treatment for food allergies, which works by desensitizing patients to the allergen by slowly increasing the doses of modified allergen that they can tolerate. The initial and maintenance regimen for OIT is usually spread over 3-5 years and has been shown to remain effective for several years after cessation of treatment.

One of the biggest hurdles in treating food allergy, or any allergy, with OIT is that the treatment involves giving a patient something they are allergic to. This means that there is potential for the patient to experience an allergic reaction or life-threatening anaphylaxis.

This is why a recent Phase 1 study Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, is so important. The researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found that by combining the standard treatment for up to five allergens with Omalizumab, medication based on antibodies, patients in the trial were desensitized to larger doses of the food protein they were allergic to. This meant they could increase the doses given over a much shorter period of time than in previous attempts at treating multiple food allergies. While a phase 1 study can’t determine conclusively whether this faster treatment schedule is effective, or whether it remains effective after the Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunologytreatment stops, the fact that patients were desensitized and safe is of huge importance for the further study of this possibility of reducing the initial treatment period. The next step would be to conduct a larger, multi-site phase 2 study.

The authors of this initial study caution that multi-food oral immunotherapy is experimental and should only be conducted in a hospital setting with trained personnel and should be conducted as per national and local regulatory guidelines.

Senior author Kari Nadeau says: “In this Phase 1 safety study, we have shown that the study participants allergic to multiple foods were safely and rapidly desensitized to up to five food allergens simultaneously, using an OIT protocol with concomitant treatment with omalizumab. These findings are particularly relevant considering the already high and likely growing number of food allergic participants who are sensitized to more than one food allergen.”

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