Last updated January 11, 2018 at 10:26 am
Food allergies affect millions of people around the world and have been on the rise for decades. Children are particularly at risk, with around one in 20 children affected compared with two in 100 adults.
Not only are these allergies becoming more common, they are also growing in severity. And while there are several treatment options, there is no cure.
Now, a new promising study suggests that an allergy drug, omalizumab, combined with food desensitisation treatments can bring relief to children with multiple food allergies.
Food desensitisation treatment involves giving a person tiny amounts of the trigger food in flour form mixed into another food, and slowly increasing this amount to build up tolerance. This is a slow treatment that is typically spread out over several months.
However, it has been difficult to research food desensitisation due to the dangers involved in giving subjects the allergen they’re triggered by. That’s where the combination drug treatment comes in.
Omalizumab blocks a type of antibody, called IgE, that is central to kicking off the allergic response in the body.
Blocking this antibody allows the body to essentially prevent this response from happening. This anti-IgE drug is currently used as a treatments for respiratory airway allergies, such as severe allergic asthma.
Combating multiple food allergies with multiple treatments
The study involved 48 children with two or more food allergies, and omalizumab was able to facilitate food desensitisation by reducing the risk of an allergic response.
Injections were given to the children over 16 weeks; at the 8 week point, they began food desensitisation. The clinical trial treatment process was over 36 weeks.
The children were split up into a treatment and control group – 36 children were given omalizumab, 12 had the placebo.
The researchers found that more children in the omalizumab group (83%) than the placebo group (33%) were able to eat the protein for at least two foods without an allergic reaction.
Not only that, on average, children who had omalizumab were able to tolerate higher levels of the the trigger food protein in the first week of food desensitisation compared to children given the placebo. Throughout the entire study, there were no serious or severe adverse events, the worst side effect being gastrointestinal events.
“While our results are promising, they are preliminary and suggest that children with multiple food allergies might one day be safely desensitised to their trigger foods using this treatment combination,” says Dr Sharon Chinthrajah, Director of the Clinical Translational Research Unit of the Sean N Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford University, USA.
This is the first phase 2 clinical trial of its kind. Further studies will confirm the efficacy and safety of this treatment combination. They also hope to study an extended course of treatment to improve the effect.
This study was published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.