New research on food allergy therapies was among the hot topics at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) annual meeting Feb. 22-25 in San Francisco.

Two studies examined long-term allergy outcomes after immunotherapy.

In the first, patients who regularly ate peanut foods maintained tolerance up to eight years afterwards. The study involved 55 past participants who had peanut oral or sublingual immunotherapy.

The majority – 74 percent – continued to eat peanut daily. While 23.8 percent of patients reported reactions including gastrointestinal symptoms and hives, they could be treated with antihistamines. One reaction required epinephrine and two required emergency medical services.

Peanut-containing foods “may be safe for certain patients following immunotherapy, and could help reduce the risk of peanut allergy sensitivities returning,” says study author Edwin H. Him, MD. “That being said, no patient with peanut allergy should take it upon themselves to try peanut food equivalents without working with their doctor.”

Dr. Kim added there is still more to learn from research. “Different types of immunotherapy, age and numerous other factors need to be studied to help us understand what treatment plan is best for patients.”

The second study involved egg allergy and was conducted by AAAAI President Robert A. Wood, MD. It found that some patients who undergo oral immunotherapy for four years are likely able to eat and tolerate eggs five years later.

The study revealed 50 percent of patients showed “sustained unresponsiveness” after oral food challenges involving egg and regular consumption of egg. They were able to ingest baked and concentrated egg.

“This study conveys that egg oral immunotherapy can be a very effective treatment for egg allergies,” Dr. Wood says. “Future studies will help us determine who will most benefit from egg oral immunotherapy.”

Like the peanut allergy study, this is a not a do-it-yourself therapy. Patients and parents of children with egg allergies should consult their doctor first and discuss oral immunotherapy options.

A third study released at AAAAI’s annual meeting involved epicutaneous immunotherapy, or the peanut patch. Results showed the peanut patch provided clinically meaningful desensitization in peanut-allergic children ages 4-11.

The promising food allergy immunotherapy news comes three months after a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) annual scientific meeting showed it’s possible for some peanut allergy patients to become desensitized to peanut following oral immunotherapy.

Study participants gradually consumed increasing amounts of peanut, and after 9-12 months, two-thirds of people in the study were able to tolerate the equivalent of at least two peanuts per day. Most study participants were children ages 4 to 17.

The treatment, called AR101, is not for everyone; people with serious peanut allergy or asthma were not included in the study, and numerous participants dropped out due to adverse reactions.

The treatment may be available by the end of 2019, but researchers stress there is much more to be done to fine-tune the therapy. Researchers also warn this is not a home treatment; it should always be done under the care of a qualified allergy specialist.