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September 11, 2006

Food Allergy Cures Around the Corner?

I saw this article by Anne Robertson online at EarthTimes.org and couldn't help but read about the potential of finding a "cure" for child food allergies. Predicting food allergy cures is a bit like predicting the weather. I'm always interested in progress on cures for food allergies. Even if not a complete "cure" anything that lessens the risk of death is a great advance in my opinion.

In the next few years, you might be able to wolf down a whole bag of peanuts and step out in any climate even if you suffer from allergies or asthma, experts have revealed at the British Association Festival of Science in Norwich.

A leading expert, Dr Ronald van Ree of Amsterdam University, said that a vaccine without side effects was being developed to help those who are unable to do a lot of things because they were allergic to substances or suffered from asthma. Asserting that the claim was not 'science fiction', but 'realistic', Dr Ree said the development of anti-allergy pills and injections are on. Such cures are more than welcome considering that the prevalence of asthma has gone up 100 per cent in the last two decades, with hay fever and severe allergic reactions posting an upward trend. As many as 3,000 people in the UK are hospitalized with severe allergic reactions annually, with 20 having succumbed to the health ill in 2005.

About 30 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of children in UK suffer from allergies to some substance or the other, the Royal College of Physicians said, adding that food allergies like those related to peanuts were on the rise. In 1996, one in 200 children was allergic to peanuts, which has now increased to one in 50. “At present the only treatment for food allergy is avoidance and rescue medication. Avoidance is difficult and sometimes even impossible. The one thing we really need for food allergy patients is a treatment that can cure the disease,” Dr Ree said.

According to him, scientists are scrutinizing the possibility of using genetic engineering to render the proteins that cause allergic reactions ineffective. The drugs developed through these techniques will work on the immune system to make it stronger to fight allergies. It is also possible that scientists will modify the protein in the allergenic foods to develop other variants of foods that do not cause allergies.

They are also using weaker variants of the allergenic proteins to develop anti-allergy medicines. “This allows scientists to develop hypo-allergenic variants of these molecules for application in safer immunotherapy that will induce little or no side effects,” Dr Ree said. Some of the foods that are known to cause severe allergies are eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, wheat, and nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, cashew and others.

Dr Ree said that cures for food allergies are likely to hit the market in the next seven to 10 years.


Posted by David at September 11, 2006 2:15 PM