New Evidence that Oral Immunotherapy May be Effective for Wheat Allergies
In recent years, oral immunotherapy has been used more and more to fight food allergies. This strategy works by desensitizing people to the substance to which they are allergic by introducing increasingly larger amounts of the substance. When successful, oral immunotherapy helps the immune system learn that the substance is not harmful, and as a result, the immune system stops overreacting to the innocuous allergen.
A new study on oral immunotherapy has given hope to those with wheat allergies and their families. The study, which was published a few weeks ago in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, provided oral immunotherapy or a placebo to 46 people with severe wheat allergies. The participants ranged in age from 4 years old to 22 years old, and their wheat allergies were diagnosed through skin prick challenges.
The oral immunotherapy that was provided to half of the group was a low-dose vital wheat gluten that contained 70 percent wheat protein. Over the course of an entire year, the dose of vital wheat gluten given to those receiving the oral immunotherapy was slightly increased every two weeks.
After 52 weeks of participation in the study, 0 percent of those who were given placebo could tolerate a test dose of 4,443 milligrams of wheat protein, which is approximately the amount of wheat protein found in a hamburger bun or about a half a cup of cooked pasta. By comparison, more than half of those who had received oral immunotherapy were able to tolerate this dose with no adverse reactions.
Compared to the results of oral immunotherapy with other allergens like peanuts or milk, the response rates with wheat oral immunotherapy were a bit lower. According to experts, there could be a number of reasons for this discrepancy. For instance, the amount of protein found in wheat is lower than what is found in peanuts or milk, which can make studying wheat allergy more challenging. It is also possible that a higher dose of oral immunotherapy is needed to generate a larger response in those with wheat allergies.
Given that the results of this study come from a relatively small sample and a sample of only young people with severe wheat allergies, more research is needed to help clarify exactly how oral immunotherapy can be used to help those with wheat allergies. These new results, however, are promising in terms of the potential for oral immunotherapy to provide protection against this type of allergy.