-- Alan Mozes
MONDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Kids who are allergic to
milk may be able to quickly develop tolerance by coupling the
allergy medication Xolair with a gradual increase in their exposure
to milk, known as sensitization, a new study suggests.
An estimated 3 million children in the United States are
allergic to some kind of food. Milk allergy is the most common food
allergy among children, affecting about 2.5 percent of those
younger than 3.
Treatment based on sensitization alone -- exposing children to
small but progressively greater amounts of the food substance to
which they're allergic -- is often successful. But it's usually a
slow process that runs the risk of provoking allergic
Seeking a faster and safer method, the research team tested a
dual approach -- sensitization along with Xolair (omalizumab), a
drug that blocks the action of IgE, a natural substance in the body
that causes allergic reactions -- in a small group of children.
Their findings were to be presented Monday in San Francisco at the
annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and
Experts note that research presented at meetings should be
considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the
rigorous scrutiny given to research published in medical
Treating milk allergies "could change a child's lifestyle for
the better," Dr. Dale Umetsu, a pediatrics professor at Harvard
Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston and a co-author of
the study, said in a news release from the Stanford University
School of Medicine, which also participated in the research. "These
children had significant milk allergy, and were unlikely to outgrow
it without some type of treatment."
"While we recognize that larger trials are necessary, these results are very promising and suggest that a rapid and safe method of food desensitization might be available for patients in the near future," Umetsu said.
For the study, the children were first given injections of
Xolair. Over the next seven to 10 weeks, they were exposed to
incrementally increasing amounts of milk, while continuing
treatment with the drug. Then, the medication was stopped but the
desensitization -- in the form of drinking about two ounces of milk
a day -- continued for another eight weeks.
The researchers noted that all of the children completed the
full treatment process, which they attributed to adding an allergy
medication to the desensitization regimen. The drug acts as a
"protective blanket," Dr. Kari Nadeau, an allergist and assistant
professor of pediatrics at Stanford and a study co-author, said in
the news release.
"Without this treatment, 10 to 20 percent of people who start oral immunotherapy drop out, in part due to intolerable allergic reactions early in the treatment," he said.
At the end of treatment, nine of the eleven children could
consume up to 12 ounces of dairy products a day with little or no
difficulty, the study found.
"When you try to go on a diet that is completely free of milk, it is very difficult because many foods have a little bit of milk protein in them," Nadeau noted. "From a practical standpoint, this treatment allowed these patients to increase all types of milk products in their diets: They were able to eat yogurt, cheese, bread, a muffin. One patient in our study said, 'I can finally eat goldfish crackers.'"
Dr. Jonathan Field, director emeritus of the pediatric allergy
immunology clinic at New York University School of
Medicine/Bellevue Medical Center in New York City, described the
findings as both "interesting" and "encouraging."
"The caveat is that so far Xolair hasn't been approved for children under 12," he noted. "But immunologically, it makes sense. And this method may promote a safer food desensitization process, which can sometimes entail risk. So anything that can make it a safer process would be quite welcome."
The Nemours Foundation has more on
milk allergy in children.
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