A Cure for Food Allergies May Be on the Horizon

Jun 6, 2017 at 5:45 p.m. ET
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For those with severe food allergies, even everyday tasks like going to the store and riding the bus can be terrifying since there's a risk of being exposed to the allergens that will cause a reaction. While not much is known about the cause of food allergies, there's been some progress in treating them, and one doctor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was recently able to cure a child of egg allergies thanks to a surprisingly simple technique.

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Fifteen-year-old Isaac Keiser, the patient, suffered from an egg allergy so severe he couldn't even eat at restaurants that cooked eggs in any of their dishes because of fears of cross-contamination. His allergic reaction to eggs was serious. He'd break out in hives, vomit and have trouble breathing. But Dr. Jonathan Spergel was able to cure him using exposure therapy under the careful watch of his medical team.

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Basically, the doctors slowly introduced eggs to Isaac's diet, having him eat a tiny bit each day. Most allergic reactions happen because the body's immune system overreacts to exposure to certain elements (in this case, eggs). So by slowly introducing eggs to his diet, Isaac desensitized his immune system to those triggers. Of course, this is only safe to do under the care of a doctor or medical team, as the risks could still be dangerous.

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The technique somewhat resembles allergen immunotherapy, a form of allergy treatment involving a long-term course of shots that introduce miniscule doses of allergens to the immune system, desensitizing it to those triggers. But immunotherapy has traditionally only been used to treat environmental allergies, bug bites or asthma — not food allergies.

If Isaac's case is any indication, there may be more hope on the horizon for other sufferers of food allergies. Hooray!