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Food Allergy
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Food Allergy

NIAID’s Role in Addressing Food Allergy

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases conducts research on food allergy and other allergic diseases. This research is focused on understanding what happens to the body during the allergic process—the sequence of events leading to the allergic response and the factors responsible for allergic diseases. This understanding will lead to better methods of diagnosing, preventing, and treating allergic diseases. Researchers also are looking at better ways to study allergic reactions to foods. Educating people, including patients, healthcare providers, school teachers, and daycare workers, about the importance of food allergy is also an important research focus. The more people know about the disorder, the better equipped they will
be to control food allergies.

Several treatment approaches are currently being tested in research settings.

Immunotherapy with Allergen Injections

One potential treatment for food allergy involves getting injections or shots (immunotherapy) subcutaneously (under the skin) that contain small quantities of the food extracts to which a person is allergic. These shots are given regularly for a long period of time with the aim of increasing the ability to tolerate the food allergen. Researchers have not yet found a safe and effective way to give allergens subcutaneously, because people often have allergic reactions to these injections.

Immunotherapy with Allergen Under the Tongue

Another potential treatment for food allergy involves putting allergens under the tongue, called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Researchers think this is safer than giving under the skin. As of mid-2007, however, this treatment was only in very early stages.

Anti-IgE Therapy

One published study suggested that some (but not all) people with peanut allergy might be partially protected against allergic reactions to low doses of peanut by taking regular subcutaneous injections of one particular form of a medicine called anti-IgE. Because the FDA-approved anti-IgE medicine has not yet been tested for peanut allergy, this treatment is not currently available for peanut allergy. Scientists need to do further research to determine the value of anti-IgE.

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