Because food allergy has a serious impact on daily life, there is a strong need for therapeutic options. However, no curative treatment is available for food allergy. Previous studies evaluating the effect of immunotherapy for peanut allergic patients were not successful, because the therapy was associated with severe systemic side effects. For mild food allergies, e.g. apple allergy, subcutaneous immunotherapy with the cross-reactive birch pollen allergen has been investigated. This showed that this may be a safe approach to treat birch-pollen related food allergies. Currently, several groups investigate the potential of specific oral tolerance induction, by the oral introduction of the culprit food in increasing amounts. However, this approach is also associated with significant side effects, and it is still a matter of debate whether actual tolerance is induced.
Because the approaches chosen so far have limited success, it is necessary to keep the focus of research on the identification of new targets for therapy.
To identify potential targets for a curative therapy for food allergy.
Human in vivo/ex vivo:
In order to identify new targets for therapy, it is necessary to have insight into the in vivo/ex vivo characteristics of food-allergic patients. Therefore, in the past years large effort has been made to characterize various groups of patients in detail, with respect to:
- Specific serum IgE to allergen extract or to major allergens
- Skin prick test (SPT) using allergen extract or major allergens:
- Double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC)
These patient groups can be asked to participate in studies that focus on the identification of potential targets for therapy, by providing us with well-characterized human data or samples such as serum.
Animal models for food allergy:
To identify potential new markers for the presence/absence or severity of clinical symptoms, the available animal models can be used. Material can be collected of allergic and non-allergic animals, or from animals before and after allergen challenge. When markers can be identified that are associated with a clinical response, this can be verified in human patients with food allergy.