Patients with life-threatening food allergies have visited the National Allergy Center in California as far back as Abu Dhabi in the hope of being able to go home, savor walnuts, eggs and wheat.
About eight percent of American children have at least one food allergy – and the autoimmune reaction is becoming more commonplace.
The safest bet has long been simply to avoid any allergenic food, but it may mean that going out to eat is always a little scary, involves a long list of questions and restrictions and that it's better to serve it with an Epipen at your fingertips.
A handful of allergists and immunologists try to suppress allergies through some kind of exposure therapy.
What does not kill: the National Allergy Center in California treats food allergies by feeding people with tiny amounts and more and more things they can not eat, such as peanuts, eggs, wheat, strawberries, milk, etc. Treatment is promising – but can cause anaphylactic shock
Until now, most studies have shown that treatment is promising and a number of clinics are opening in the United States.
The protocol determines the foods to which a patient is allergic and their sensitivity, then introduces them to small daily doses of these foods, as well as blocking the blockage of allergies, slowly increasing the patient's tolerance in some cases.
But if all goes well, patients are at risk of life-threatening anaphylaxis.
It was Kate Rome's biggest fear when she started taking her daughter, Haley, 12, to the National Allergy Center (NAC) to treat her severe peanut allergy about a year and a half ago. .
"Oh, I was terrified," Kate said.
"I describe it to other parents who think it requires nerves of steel, but it's worth it.
Haley managed to stay out of emergencies for most of her life, but when she was four, her family discovered her allergy because she had entered anaphylactic shock for the first time, which haunts Kate since.
Allergies are essentially an immunological problem. The body recognizes that non-threats – such as peanuts or gluten, or eggs – are threats or invaders that must be evicted.
Thus, the immune system accelerates the production of antibodies against the trigger that it has detected, causing symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, itching, red eyes and l? urticaria.
However, the immune system's attempts to attack these "invaders" are flawed and the chemicals used to combat them can shake the body, cause constriction of the airways, swelling of the throat and mouth, as well as "spotting". a rapid drop in blood pressure.
All this can be added to the anaphylactic shock, which cuts off breathing and explains that three out of every 1,000 people are admitted to intensive care units for children, according to Food Allergy Research and Education.
An injection of epinephrine, a hormone, can put everything back in order, but a visit to the hospital remains necessary and expensive.
Many allergies, such as those caused by eggs, tend to disappear over time, often disappearing completely by the age of 20.
But nothing guarantees that this act disappears.
We do not know for sure what drives some people to develop allergies, but some research indicates that it's mostly about genes, while another theory suggests that the immune system does not recognize new foods, because people are not exposed to it early enough.
Based in part on this concept, scientists are experimenting with oral immunotherapy, or ILO, a technical term designating the fact of gradually trying more offending foods in order to convert the immune system so that 39, it is recognized that it is acceptable to eat it.
ILO 101 lists about 60 clinics offering the experimental protocol in the United States. The California-based National Allergy Center led the way in 2017; it was founded by Whitney Block, which now has offices in Redwood and a new center in Burbank.
Patients follow three steps of a protocol.
First, doctors confirm which foods they are tolerant of, sensitive to (meaning they have a mild reaction) and to which they are allergic. On the basis of these, they propose an initial dosage and gradual increases of each food to which a child or an adult is sensitive or allergic.
Block has been studying for years the ILO for food allergies, based at Stanford University.
Up until now, the ILO has shown great promise for the treatment of egg and peanut allergies.
When the researchers administered to 47 patients a boiled peanut immunotherapy, at least 24 of them became numb to the nuts and, even after a four month break in treatment, they all could eat at least two peanuts without problems.
The training process did not surprisingly upset the stomachs of subjects aged 8 to 17, but there were some fears.
On 19 occasions, 10 patients had anaphylactic shock. Four patients discontinued because the treatment did not suit them (either because of anaphylactic shock or other side effect of the treatment), and four others gave up for other reasons, according to a study published last week (and funded in part by a peanut business).
The research group is one of many candidates for FDA approval for peanut immunotherapy.
The good news is that the ILO seems to work – but if it does not, the treatment is life-threatening.
This may give the FDA a break, but clinics like NAC do not wait and have already treated a large number of patients.
Block saw the safety and success of the ILO and decided to start his own business.
At the NAC, patients decide their goal: to be in the same room as a trigger food, accidentally eat a small amount without deadly fear or be able to eat and enjoy foods that they have never been before. able to.
And they really want to.
Block says she's been treating hundreds of patients, from her area, from cities like Boston, and even one who has traveled three times in six weeks from Abu Dhabi to California for problems food – try trigger foods to see if the daily packaging doses had desensitized them.
Patients agree that the beginning of the process of desensitization and especially food problems is abnormal and frightening, but it is worth it.
"It's the opposite of what you spent all your energy trying to keep peanuts [or other allergens] Now that you put peanuts in your child, Kate said, confessing that she was more nervous than her daughter, Haley.
Christine Polek brought her son, Wyatt Harris, now 15, to the Boston clinic every few weeks.
It was an extremely expensive business, although Block says that insurance usually covers the cost of the treatment itself.
For Wyatt, starting the treatment, partly because it involved flying from one country to another, was "a kind of big investment and adventure, so he was excited," says Christine.
But less about the food challenge.
When they had to test how much milk he could tolerate, he was very very scared after so much of his life[passéavecdulaitcommeunesituationdevieoudemortditChristine[spentwithmilkasalifeanddeathsituation'Christinesays[passéavecdulaitcommeunesituationdevieoudemortditChristine[spentwithmilkasalifeanddeathsituation’Christinesays
"It was still a poison in his mind, so it was a very moving experience."
The allergies of Wyatt and Haley have improved considerably.
"It's a huge relief for me and I hope for it too. I see him becoming a light man, the distant no longer is as rooted as before, and it's always hard to believe.
Wyatt and Haley always take "maintenance" doses – small amounts of food to which they are allergic, every day or every other day.
It means eating something made with the equivalent of three cups of milk, Goldfish cookies for Wyatt or two M & M Peanut with a bowl of ice cream for Haley every other day – on the doctor's order "Because it helps her belly metabolize peanuts and asks Whitney," Kate says.
"Yeah, it's really a torture for these kids," he said. Whitney laughs.
ILO is too new to say whether it will mean that these children will be able to eat what they want when they want, but their mothers do not doubt that it has changed their lives.