A study shows that one side effect of an asthma medication is that it desensitizes patients to some of their food allergies. This is the same study team who came up with evidence that patients could be desensitized to several foods at once. The two studies together point to a promising method of helping people with chronic food allergies in a shorter amount of time.
Desensitizing to Multiple Allergies Addresses the Concerns of Many
The asthma drug omalizumab helped to desensitize patients to multiple food allergens at a median of 18 weeks. For those not taking the asthma medication, it took a median of 85 weeks to reach desensitization. Oral immunotherapy was used in both groups to build up a tolerance. This method uses gradually increasing doses of the allergen to build a resistance. This is done under hospital supervision. Since there are over 4 million Americans with multiple food allergies, this approach to desensitization will have a broader effect.
Current Options Limited and Time-Consuming
Those with significant food allergies can either practice avoidance of the food and carry an epinephrine auto-injector, or they can try desensitization. It can take up to three years to desensitize to a single allergen – decades if there are multiple allergies. Stanford researchers, led by Kari Nadeau, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at the medical school and an immunologist at Stanford Hospital & Clinic and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, have found that being desensitized to several foods at once is possible and is sped up by using the asthma medication omalizumab. Many of the test patients were treated for five allergies at once.
“It’s efficient,” noted Philippe Begin, M.D., visiting scientist at Stanford. “It’s exciting that we could perhaps have a treatment that’s actually doable on a large scale.” More testing is needed, but it appears the prospects are good.