Today, over 40% of children and 50% of adults have suffered anaphylaxis due to a severe food allergy. Anaphylaxis occurs when the body’s immune system attacks a protein or food during digestion, putting the entire body under duress. Whether it is seconds, minutes, or sometimes, hours, severe allergic reactions cause hives, nausea, shock and shortness of breath. If untreated, anaphylaxis can lead to death. In the past, the only assurance offered to treat the disability was epinephrine—lifesaving during the occurrence of anaphylaxis; life-ending for common use. Thus, for centuries, little has been done to devise preventative treatments which mitigate a patient’s sensitivity to the allergen. However, a recently marketed drug, Xolair, or Omalizumab, has been applied to environmental allergies, asthma and now, food allergies.
Targeting Immunoglobulin (Ige) antibodies, which are produced by the immune system, the innovative medication neutralizes these antibodies before they can distribute to cells, releasing chemicals and expediting an allergic reaction. With the medication developed, scientists have begun to coordinate studies and immunotherapies in order to test the safety and efficacy of the drug in the food allergy context. Currently, the drug boasts potential which would allow individuals to eat without worrying about cross contamination or even small amounts of the allergen without a reaction. An immunotherapy, eating the allergen through “food challenges” seeks to define the amount of allergen which can be tolerated to ensure greater diversity of diet and culinary appreciation.
Currently, the risk is too high for others like myself, who have life threatening food allergies. No food, regardless of how enticing is worth your life. However, with Xolair treatments developing, people may have a chance at eating easier.