Asthma drug omalizumab speeds up the process of desensitizing patients with food allergies to several foods at the same time, Stanford researchers observe.
The findings by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford come on the heels of a recent study by the same team showing that people with multiple food allergies can be desensitized to several foods at once.
In the earlier study, in which patients were not given omalizumab, 25 children and adults with multiple allergies ate tiny doses of their allergens - as many as five - as highly purified food powders each day. The total dose was evenly divided between the allergens so that each subject got the same total quantity of food protein, regardless of the number of foods they were being desensitized to. The researchers monitored the treatment's safety, noting some mild allergic reactions, such as itching in the mouth, and a small number of severe reactions that were treated with epinephrine. The food dose was gradually increased until subjects could eat 4 grams of each food protein, or up to 20 grams of the allergenic food proteins in total, without experiencing a reaction. This occurred at a median of 85 weeks after food doses began.
In the second and most recent study, 25 children and adults with multiple food allergies underwent a similar protocol - but with an additional step. Eight weeks before being introduced to food allergens, the patients began receiving injections of omalizumab. This drug reduces activity of the body's IgE molecules, the antibodies involved in allergic responses, and had been shown in a previous Stanford study to speed the success of oral immunotherapy for children with milk allergies.
Patients getting omalizumab tolerated larger initial doses of allergens than those in the non-omalizumab study, and desensitization progressed faster.
The results have been published online in the journal Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology.