Food allergy: immune mechanisms, diagnosis and immunotherapy

Nat Rev Immunol. 2016 Dec;16(12):751-765. doi: 10.1038/nri.2016.111. Epub 2016 Oct 31.


Food allergy is a pathological, potentially deadly, immune reaction triggered by normally innocuous food protein antigens. The prevalence of food allergies is rising and the standard of care is not optimal, consisting of food-allergen avoidance and treatment of allergen-induced systemic reactions with adrenaline. Thus, accurate diagnosis, prevention and treatment are pressing needs, research into which has been catalysed by technological advances that are enabling a mechanistic understanding of food allergy at the cellular and molecular levels. We discuss the diagnosis and treatment of IgE-mediated food allergy in the context of the immune mechanisms associated with healthy tolerance to common foods, the inflammatory response underlying most food allergies, and immunotherapy-induced desensitization. We highlight promising research advances, therapeutic innovations and the challenges that remain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Desensitization, Immunologic
  • Food / adverse effects
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Food Hypersensitivity / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Immunotherapy


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E