Food allergy was a hot topic of research conversation at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology conference in San Francisco in March 2011.
While no food allergy “cure” looms around the corner, there was an encouraging sense that treatments and new tests are coming. Researchers are unlocking more secrets of allergies and the immune system – and finding better predictors of true allergies.
In one noteworthy media conference, leading researchers Dr. Wesley Burks (Duke University, North Carolina), Dr. Hugh Sampson (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York), and Dr. Robert Wood (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore) spoke about results that they found “surprising” in a population study of allergies in young children.
This continuing study of 512 infants showed a very high level of peanut sensitization among 244 milk-allergic children.
“We estimated going in that about 20 per cent might already have peanut allergy that we didn’t know about yet,” said Dr. Wood. “But it turned out to be more like 65 per cent, so we were very surprised at the initiation of the study that such a high proportion of these babies already appeared to be either fully peanut allergic or on their way to peanut allergy.”
Dr. Sampson added that in this study, which is part of the five-site COFAR (Consortium of Food Allergy Research) project, he was particularly struck “by how high some of the levels [of IgE allergy antibodies] were in some of these infants.”
The sensitization shown in the skin tests doesn’t necessarily mean allergy – so researchers will give the children oral food allergy challenges when they are a little older to determine whether these findings are, in fact, true allergy.
Sampson notes that when they looked at test levels consistent with peanut allergy, the number of children affected dropped to 30 per cent.
“But that’s an extraordinarily high number for such young children who have not themselves ingested peanut.”
We will have more on these findings and the factors involved in the Summer 2011 issue of Allergic Living. 
Next: Allergy Reactions to DPT Vaccine
DPT Vaccine and Milk Allergy Concerns
Also at the conference, Dr. Sampson expressed concern about allergic reactions to the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) vaccine seen in seven milk-allergic children at his Mount Sinai clinic in New York City.
He does not know whether these are isolated cases, but wanted other physicians to be aware of these reactions as trace amounts of milk protein do appear to have caused these highly allergic children to react to the shots.
While the allergists at Dr. Sampson’s clinic did not have access to the vials of vaccine administered to these children, his team tested two vials with highly sensitive equipment. “One of them clearly had milk protein in it.”
“We’re looking at other [vaccine] lots to get an idea of whether it’s a very uncommon phenomenon or not,” he said. “But we were struck by the fact that just in our practice we had seven patients who had these severe reactions and we believe it is due to contamination of milk protein in this vaccine.”
If you have concerns about the DPT vaccine and your milk-allergic child, be sure to consult with your allergist.