Oral Immunotherapy - A Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding About Allergy
Food allergy has been steadily rising during the recent years, to the point that some declares it an epidemic. The mainstream solution to allergens, is to simply avoid it. Apparently, sanitizing the environment is so obvious that few question the impacts this approach has on our immune system.
On the other end of the spectrum, recent studies, based on a diametrically opposite perspective about food allergy, are constantly revealing new insight about the symbiotic relationship between the allergens and our immune system.
And it’s from this new understanding that allergy-desensitization treatments, such as oral immunotherapy and sublingual immunotherapy, slowly invade the medical community. In essence, oral immunotherapy simply does the opposite of what traditional wisdom dictates - It aims to reduce allergy response, by introducing allergens, in tiny doses, on a regular basis. Simply put, it is a form of immunitary hormesis.Recent breakthrough in oral immunotherapyDisclaimer
It’s extremely important to mention that this field is exactly this - experimental
. Any patient with serious allergy should not
experiment with allergens on their own, unless under the supervision of immunotherapists. More research is needed to determine the individual maximal dose without incurring anaphylaxis, and to devise techniques to better retain allergen tolerance over time.Conclusion
In a sense, oral immunotherapy embodies the same concepts that occuried to Edward Jenner two centuries ago - It wasn't the avoidance of cowpox that protect against smallbox, but the systematic controlled exposure to it. The advances in oral immunotherapy also shed more light on the validity of hygiene theory (i.e., autoimmune diseases are triggered by the lack of exposure to “allergens”), which, I think, should be the central tenet of immunology, and which holds the key to many civilisation diseases that most deem unsolvable.
In fact, it's often said that allergen tolerance develops during the earliest years of our lifespan, and that lack of exposure to them, during this critical period, can severe compromise one's immune system, sometimes permanently. Conversely, early exposure to allergens is associated with increased allergen tolerance.http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1793699
All it takes really is a change in public awareness. Here’s a blog on allergy desensitization, by a mother of a patient suffering peanut allergy.http://justalittlepeanut.blogspot.ca/2011/03/breakthrough-treatment-for-peanut.html
Should allergy protection in, say, school, be a fundamental human right? hm..I would say that we rethink again.