Milk allergy is the most common, affecting 2.5 percent of children under age 3. In a small clinical study, researchers report effectively desensitizing milk-allergic patients by increasing their exposure to milk in tandem with an allergy drug called omalizumab, allowing children to build up resistance quickly with limited allergic reactions.
Research was reported by immunologists and allergists at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The researchers, Lynda Schneider, MD, and Dale Umetsu, MD, PhD, at Children’s Hospital Boston and Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, at Stanford University and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, showed that the majority of the milk-allergic subjects who completed the regimen passed a double-blind food challenge and were then able to ingest the equivalent of 8 ounces of milk or more per day.
Some 3 million children in the United States have some form of food allergy, ranging in severity from mild to life-threatening. Although food allergy is a major public health problem, currently there is no effective and safe treatment except to avoid the foods that can trigger an anaphylactic reaction, and to promptly treat reactions when they occur. But the need for new options is critical now as the number of children diagnosed with food allergies rises.
“This is the first study to use omalizumab in combination with oral desensitization,” said Umetsu, who is also the Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “Using omalizumab allowed us to escalate their milk intake very rapidly compared to other desensitization protocols, and still limit allergic reactions.”
Nine of the 11 children then successfully completed an oral milk challenge. The next day, these nine children began to consume 8 to 12 ounces of dairy per day to maintain their tolerance with minimal or no adverse effects.
“We decided to start with milk because treating it successfully could change a child’s lifestyle for the better,” Umetsu noted. “These children had significant milk allergy, and were unlikely to outgrow it without some type of treatment. While we recognize that larger trials are necessary, these results are very promising, and suggest that a rapid and safe method of food desensitization might be available for patients in the near future.”
Source: Stanford University Medical Center, USA