Recently Channel 7 News reported this piece below about a 7 year old who received oral immunotherapy for a peanut allergy, but had to go to the US to receive this treatment.
When we posted this news report on our Facebook page, it quickly became apparent that there’s a lot of confusion around this type of treatment and what is or isn’t available yet here in Australia We thought it worthy of some research, so we can let you know what the current state of play actually is!
Australia has one of the highest rates food allergy in the world!There is no doubt at all that in the prevalence of children with food allergies has increased and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found that as many as 10 per cent of 12-month-old infants have a clinically confirmed food allergy, making this one of the highest reported rates in the world.
This high rate does also mean that resources here in Australia are channelled into research in this area and despite news reports that made it sound as if treatments aren’t available here in Australia, we are actually leading the world when it comes to allergy research and oral immunotherapy.
(Source: Murdock Children’s Research Institute)
Are there oral immunotheraphy trials currently happening in Australia?
YES! There are several clinical trials of oral immunotherapy and other treatments for food allergy currently underway in Australia and other countries. In some of these, it’s combined with another component that may help to make allergic reactions less severe, improve safety and encourage tolerance.The overall aim of these trials is to develop standardised and proven methods to maximise benefit and reduce the risk of potential harm in people with severe food allergy. Understandably, these trials are all hospital based due to high rates of allergic reactions.
Results so far from current oral immunotheraphy trials for peanut allergy
At the moment oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy is still an experimental treatment with its benefits and side effects being studied in clinical trials in Australia as well as internationally.So far, published trials show that for food allergy, it can result in desensitisation in many people, but most do not show “sustained unresponsiveness”.
- Sustained unresponsiveness means that a person can still consume the food allergen after a period of avoidance or stopping oral immunotherapy, without having an allergic reaction. Sometimes this is also called “ongoing tolerance”.
- Desensitisation is a temporary state that allows a person to consume more of the food allergen than they could prior to OIT. This requires the food allergen to be consumed regularly, without stopping.
What about the safety of oral immunotherapy trials?
At present there isn’t any standardised or approved for routine treatment of food allergy globally and there’s concerns about potential harm outweighing the benefits in people with severe food allergy, as well as considerable cost implications.
So while there are many reports similar to the above news report and on social media too about the use of oral immunotheraphy as a potential treatment for food allergy (especially in the USA), there there actually are no methods for it yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or anywhere else as a treatment for food allergy and experts don’t recommend using it outside of clinical trials.
Like all things eczema and health related, it's always best to chat with your doctor/pediatrician if you have any other questions about your child's food allergies and they will always be your best port of call to direct you to services or trials that would be appropriate, but we hope this blog helps clear up some of the confusion about what is and isn't available here in Australia.