Food allergy is an increasingly prevalent problem in westernized countries, and there is an unmet medical need for an effective form of therapy. A number of therapeutic strategies are under investigation targeting foods that most frequently provoke severe IgE-mediated anaphylactic reactions (peanut, tree nuts, and shellfish) or are most common in children, such as cow's milk and hen's egg. Approaches being pursued are both food allergen specific and nonspecific. Allergen-specific approaches include oral, sublingual, and epicutaneous immunotherapy (desensitization) with native food allergens and mutated recombinant proteins, which have decreased IgE-binding activity, coadministered within heat-killed Escherichia coli to generate maximum immune response. Diets containing extensively heated (baked) milk and egg represent an alternative approach to food oral immunotherapy and are already changing the paradigm of strict dietary avoidance for patients with food allergy. Nonspecific approaches include monoclonal anti-IgE antibodies, which might increase the threshold dose for food allergen in patients with food allergy, and a Chinese herbal formulation, which prevented peanut-induced anaphylaxis in a murine model and is currently being investigated in clinical trials. The variety of strategies for treating food allergy increases the likelihood of success and gives hope that accomplishing an effective therapy for food allergy is within reach.
Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.