Egg oral immunotherapy and all forms of food immunotherapy have been in the news a lot lately. The treatment for all food allergies in the past has been strictly avoidance and to carry and EpiPen in case of accidental exposures. But over the last several years, many scientists have been looking to oral immunotherapy as a treatment option for patients. Currently the only forms of immunotherapy that are widely available are for environmental allergens, trees, grasses, weeds, dust mites, dogs, cats and molds. It is also available for medications such as antibiotics, as well as for bee venom. But with the rise of food allergies worldwide, many doctors have been looking into desensitizing food allergy patients. There has been good success with some of the common foods, such as wheat, peanuts and eggs. A recent article was in the April 2016 issue of Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology looking into long-term egg oral immunotherapy efficacy.
Researchers looked into children with egg allergy treated with long-term egg oral immunotherapy and they saw an enhancement of clinical benefit associated with prolonged treatment. The authors concluded that longer treatment with egg oral immunotherapy enhances the overall treatment effect. Those that achieved sustained unresponsiveness reported consuming all forms of egg in their diet, with increased frequency of consumption and increased amount consumed of both unbaked and baked egg. Jones et al. demonstrated that egg oral immunotherapy treatment that exceeds a period of two years increases the likelihood of a patient’s achieving sustained unresponsiveness.
The results of this study will be very important when allergists begin to do oral immunotherapy for patients who are food allergic. Once a patient is desensitized to a food, in this case eggs, patients had longer sustained unresponsiveness if they keep consuming the food. We do see this for other forms of immunotherapy now, patients who continue their allergy shots longer seem to have longer sustained unresponsiveness. Current guidelines recommend allergy immunotherapy to be given for 3-5 years, but for venom allergy it can be even lifelong.
Although egg oral immunotherapy is not currently available except in research trials, good results are being seen for that and other forms of foods. Please stay tuned when it will become available.