In a July 19, 2012 issue of New England Journal of Medicine, the allergy specialists and scientists under the Consortium of Food Allergy Research (CoFAR) have published a very promising study under the title “Oral Immunotherapy for Treatment of Egg Allergy in Children”. It has been viewed by media as the cure for all the food allergies. Our team at the AmazingAllergist.com, asked Dr. Atul N. Shah, a board certified allergist, to share his view. This excerpt was prepared from his recent media interview on the topic.
The “reversal of egg allergy” is a very exciting step in the right direction. It is very promising to see the progress in the field of allergy and immunology that will offer hope to children and parents with numerous food allergies. The word of caution here is DO NOT try at home. It’s not ready for primetime yet.
Allergy is nothing but an over active immune response to a harmless trigger. When food is a trigger, this over active response can be life threatening. The under lying mechanism is development of IgE antibody to these triggers. The IgE is produced by one type of stimulated white cells, known as the B cells. The science is looking into developing ways to reduce or stop this IgE antibody production, that will translate into “out growing” the allergies.
The concept of allergy reversal is in practice for more than a century and is used by all the allergy specialists in the form of allergen immunotherapy given for indoor and outdoor allergies. When a tree or grass pollen allergic individual is receiving allergen immunotherapy, he is actually receiving the same tree or pollen as injections to reverse their specific high IgE related pollen allergy. We know that it works and is very effective for millions of allergic individuals.
The findings of recent studies are very encouraging to see the similar concept applied to the food triggers. It was tried for peanuts first and recently for eggs. Doctors have reversed allergies in some children and teens by giving them tiny daily doses of problem foods, gradually training their immune systems to accept them.
Don’t try this yourself, though. It has a potential for life threatening reaction. It takes special products, a year or more and close supervision and trained specialists to do this. The study had enrolled 55 children ages 5 to 18. They were divided into groups. In one group, forty were given tiny daily amounts of powdered egg white, the part that usually causes the allergy. The others group of 15 were given cornstarch, as placebo for comparison. The amounts were increased every two weeks until kids in the treatment group were eating about one third of an egg each day. They were monitored very closely by a team of trained specialists. At about a year, none receiving the placebo treatment passed the egg challenge and those on the egg white powder did better. Half of them passed in a year and at the end of two years, 75 percent of them cleared of egg allergy.
These findings excite Dr. Shah as he looks forward to having an established protocol that can be implemented into his and other AmazingAllergist.com practices. He also expressed that if we can do this for peanuts and eggs, very soon we might be able to tackle other common food triggers like tree nuts, milk, soy and wheat.
About the Author:
Atul N. Shah, MD, FACAAI, FAAAAI, is a board certified allergist and the bestselling author of the children’s book, Allergies, and Awesome You. He is also a medical director of www.Center4AsthmaAllergy.com and the founder of the educational website www.AmazingAllergist.com. He has earned an honor of fellowships in both the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. He has personally treated more than 20,000 patients, made a significant impact on more than 100,000 lives as an allergist and earned the nickname “AmazingAllergist” from his patients and peers. He has been recognized with various awards, including the America’s Top Physicians’ Award, the Patients’ Choice Award, and the Most Compassionate Physicians’ Award. He believes that every allergic child and individual has a potential to live a great life, allergy-free.