For those who live with food allergies, a new food allergy clinic in London may provide some hope for becoming immune.
For the past year, the food allergy clinic at St. Joseph’s Health Care London has been treating 20 children with minor peanut allergies. At the start of treatment, trained allergists administer one milligram of peanut flour to the children, gradually increasing the dose every month. By the end of 12 to 13 months, the children are projected to be able to eat one whole peanut.
Dr. Harold Kim, chair and chief of the clinical immunology and allergy division at Western University, reported that the clinic already has a child who can eat one peanut a day. Other children in the program are also close to being able to eat the one whole peanut while some are still in the early stages of the therapy. Dr. Kim said the clinic will likely try the therapy on young adults, although they haven't yet. They need to find willing candidates.
“The quality of life improves quite dramatically because they can live life without worrying as much as they did prior to immunotherapy,” explained Kim.
While most of the studies have been performed with children, Dr. Kim thinks that the treatment may also work for young adults as well. However, he feels that it is likely that this micro-dosing technique may be more effective in children.
Not every person is eligible for treatment — if patients show severe reactions to the foods during diagnosis, such as sudden drops in blood pressure, then Dr. Kim and his team would declare it too dangerous to implement the immunotherapy.
Although Dr. Kim emphasized the effectiveness of this long-term treatment, he also acknowledged it is not a complete cure.
“I’m not convinced that we would be able to develop a cure as physicians,” said Dr. Kim. “I think a lot of patients lose it or outgrow it over time … but I think [immunotherapy] is our best hope.”
Dr. Kim stressed that these desensitization procedures and processes should all be done under strict medical supervision. Doses of foods are measured to the milligram and should not be attempted at home due to potential health risks.