Food allergies are increasingly becoming a public health problem as they’ve been on the rise for the last few decades. Over 10 percent of children are affected by food allergies, resulting in a growing number of severe reactions. Food allergies cause a constant burden on affected patients including dietary restrictions, anxiety of unintended ingestion, risk of adverse or life-threatening reactions and deteriorated quality of life. Thus, there is a growing importance of established treatments for food allergies.
When an individual is suffering from a food allergy, their immune system triggers a response with IgE (immunoglobulin E) when it comes in contact with the allergen. The body mistakenly identifies the food item as a dangerous element, leading to the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals in order to attack the perceived threat. This results in various symptoms ranging from coughing and sneezing to itching and anaphylactic shock. Based on many factors, it can cause anything from slight inconvenience to death in extreme cases.
The immune response to food can be of two types:
- (IgE)-mediated, which causes prompt reactions
- Non-IgE mediated, which causes other pathologies like Eosinophilic esophagitis.
Currently, there is no definitive cure for food allergies. However, there are various ways to manage the condition. These include avoidance of allergens or triggers through dietary restrictions, control of symptoms and emergency treatment for severe reactions such as administration of epinephrine.
However, there is a silver lining in terms of the future of food allergy and its potential treatment therapies. Around the world, cutting-edge research is underway by the brightest minds in the field of medicine. There are several allergen specific- and allergen nonspecific-therapies under investigation with the objective to develop a permanent food tolerance. Allergen-specific therapies aim to slowly increase exposure to an unmodified or modified allergen in order to impel oral tolerance. Allergen non-specific therapies, on the other hand, target the immune system to induce immunologic changes to diminish the pathogenic response to the allergen.
Below is a rundown of several allergen-specific and allergen-nonspecific therapies that show potential of becoming effective allergy treatments in the near future.
- Oral Immunotherapy (OIT)
- Subcutaneous Immune Therapy
- Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)
- Epicutaneous Immunotherapy
- Modified Recombinant Vaccines
- Modified Food Allergens
- Food Allergen-Coupled Cell Transfer
Non allergen-specific therapies:
- Anti-IgE therapy
- Anti-Cytokines Therapy
- Gene Therapy
Out of these, only immunotherapy has been recognised as the most promising therapeutic approach for food allergy treatment as of now. It is important to note that the above mentioned therapies are currently in various phases of research and may not be the ultimate treatments for food allergies. Nevertheless, with the ongoing efforts for evidence and for each of these practices, we are inching closer towards developing viable, permanently effective treatments for food allergies. Thus, we can hope for a future where we are able to treat all food allergies.
We, at The Allergy Suite specialise in providing high quality care for food allergies. Our allergists, being active members of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, stay up-to-date with the new developments in evidence-based practices to manage food allergies. Currently, we give utmost attention to our patients and aim to manage their food allergies with the highest standard of care available. To know more, contact us here.