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Oral Immunotherapy for Food Allergies

Food allergy is an adverse immune response to certain foods that occur in certain individuals. Typically individuals may present with any combination of the following: itchiness, hives, flushing, swelling of the lips, face, throat, wheezing, lightheadedness, fainting or low blood pressure. Management of food allergies involves strict avoidance of the food and treatment of accidental exposures to the food with medication. Certain foods such as egg and milk allergies tend to be outgrown during childhood but foods such as shellfish and nuts tend to persist into adulthood. Food allergies can reduce quality of life, cause constant fear of certain food exposure and anxiety about epipen use.

Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is a new therapy involving daily feeding of a certain food allergen in increasing doses until a “maintenance dose” is reached. A majority of patients treated with OIT become “desensitized” meaning that their body has been exposed to this food allergen so much that it no longer views the allergen as foreign and therefore does not mount an allergic response to it. However, it appears that most patients will require ongoing exposure to the food allergen for the protective effect to remain.

Is there any oral immunotherapy on the market currently?

There is a new drug called PALFORZIA™ that became approved by the FDA as of January 31, 2020. It is the nation’s first approved treatment for food allergies. The therapy involves ingesting small doses of peanut protein, gradually increasing doses over a few months until the body is “desensitized”. Make an appointment with your allergist today to find out more about this new therapy!

Sources:

Food allergy
https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.proxy.library.vcu.edu/pubmed?term=29300005

Oral immunotherapy for food allergy
https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.proxy.library.vcu.edu/pubmed?term=20852423

EAACI Guidelines on allergen immunotherapy: IgE-mediated food allergy.
https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.proxy.library.vcu.edu/pubmed?term=29205393

Oral tolerance: lessons on treatment of food allergy
https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.proxy.library.vcu.edu/pubmed?term=16292081

Allergist debate anticipated FDA approval of a peanut allergy drug
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/09/23/763394019/allergists-debate-anticipated-fda-approval-of-a-peanut-allergy-drug