MYTH: “My neighbour says she read that there is a cure for food allergies and she wants to know why we ‘haven’t gotten it yet’ for our son.”
FACT: Currently, there is no cure for food allergy. There are, however, many interesting studies underway to explore different approaches for treatment. Some children qualify for these studies; others may not qualify.
These studies include: anti-IgE antibodies (Xolair); Chinese herbal formulas; and immunotherapy or desensitization to the food allergen using different routes of delivery, such as Oral Immunotherapy (OIT), Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT), Epicutaneous (EPIT) and ingestion of extensively heated milk and egg.
Studies of OIT for peanut, where children under medical supervision are fed progressively increasing doses of peanut, have shown promise in that some allergic children were able to tolerate far more than would be encountered in an accidental ingestion. What has emerged, however, is that most are neither cured nor tolerant. Once they discontinue taking their daily maintenance dose, the food allergy often returns. In fact the United States Government’s Food and Drug Agency has asked that the term tolerance be replaced with “sustained unresponsiveness” which reflects this reality.
Also, it’s important to know that these trials generally consist of small numbers of defined patients (often most severely allergic are omitted from trials), and results may not apply to everyone.
Bottom line: Currently, there is no cure for food allergy, though there are many promising treatments on the horizon.
Note: Each month on our blog, we are featuring a common myth about food allergies, followed by the facts. Information for this month’s Fact was provided by Dr. Susan Waserman, MSc, MD, FRCPC. Professor of Medicine, Division of Clinical Allergy and Immunology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.