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September 10, 2015

Food allergy is the most common cause of visits for anaphylaxis treated in Emergency Departments. Nearly 15 percent of patients per year have accidential reactions.

"Investigations are being conducted on potential therapies for food allergy with the goal of developing an active treatment by means of desentization or increased tolerance to protect patients from accidental exposures," Dr. Burks said.

Treatment options under investigation include allergen non-specific therapies that would be effective for any food allergy include anti-IgE and certain preparations of Chinese herbal medicine.

Studies indicate anti-IgE monoclonal antibody therapy may be effective in 75 percent of patients, but it must be given on a continuous basis, and there are concerns about its safety and cost. Future anti-IgE treatments for food allergy may be utilized in combination with other immunotherapy treatments.

"Herbal remedies used in Asia for centuries are under investigation in the United States. A study of Chinese medicine FAHF-2 used in a mouse model for peanut allergy worked to prevent symptoms of a reaction, and we are seeing favorable results in early human studies," Dr. Burks said.

Therapies that are allergen-specific include heat-denatured protein, sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), engineered recombinant protein, and oral immunotherapy (OIT).

Investigations into the use of baked or extensively heated food for daily ingestion in certain patients are successfully promoting desensitization and or tolerance to foods, such as milk and egg products.

In food allergy, the risks of traditional immunotherapy (subcutaneous injections of intact allergen) have far outweighed the benefits, but new approaches under investigation look promising.

"Several preliminary studies on oral or sublingual immunotherapy for food allergy have very encouraging results, with strong evidence of at least short term desensitization. Investigators are looking carefully at the safety of dosing and working on establishing initial, build-up and maintenance protocols for peanut allergy," Dr. Burks said.

Using an "engineered" peanut protein in a mouse model of peanut allergy, the "new" proteins worked to help prevent anaphylaxis in the peanut-allergic mice, he noted.

"The work on the development of a treatment for food allergy is progressing rapidly and is very encouraging," Dr. Burks said.

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