Selasa, 24 Agustus 2010

Oral Immunotherapy for Food Allergies

Some people have food allergies so severe that even the slightest contact with the food can lead to a life-threatening allergic response. A rare but potentially fatal allergic response to peanuts, for example, is why most airlines no longer serve peanuts on their flights. Other sufferers are equally allergic to milk or to eggs, commonly used as ingredients in many food products and recipes. Is there anything that can be done for people with life-threatening food allergies aside from having them try to avoid the food?

Current research efforts are focused on oral immunotherapy (OIT). OIT consists of exposing the patient to miniscule quantities of the allergen in a supervised research setting (under close medical supervision), and then if an allergic reaction fails to occur or remains mild, slowly increasing the dose over days or months to “desensitize” the patient.

Researchers caution that the technique is not yet ready for widespread clinical use, however. The risk of an adverse reaction to the first dose is fairly high, and little is known about the safety of OIT when done at home under a variety of conditions. In addition, it is not known how long desensitization lasts if/when regular desensitizing dosing is ended. There is a danger that desensitized patients might develop a false sense of security once they become partially desensitized or quit their therapy altogether.

Nevertheless, OIT might become a useful therapy for severe food allergies in the future, once we better understand how to perform it safely. For sufferers of truly severe food allergies, the risks associated with desensitization would have to be balanced against the risk of accidental exposure to the allergen and perhaps even death.

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