Oral immunotherapy treats food allergies one tiny bite at a time

New therapies were approved just as COVID-19 was hitting.

New immunotherapy, or OIT, is the latest therapy that slowly introduces tiny doses of the forbidden food.

CHICAGO (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, and shellfish — the list goes on.

There are more than 32 million people, including children, who have food allergies in the U.S.

One bite of the wrong food could kill them.

New therapies were approved just as COVID-19 was hitting, so researchers worry that not everyone is aware of them.

Adelina Ziemann is allergic to peanuts, and she knows all too well that she can’t enjoy everything her little sister Zoe can.

Her mom, Amanda Ziemann, recalls when Adelina had a reaction.

“She and her friend got into a bag of what they thought was M&M’s but were Reese’s pieces,” Amanda said.

One in 50 kids have a peanut allergy like Adelina. It’s the most likely food to cause a reaction. In fact, there’s been a 21% increase in peanut allergies in children since 2010.

New immunotherapy, or OIT, is the latest therapy that slowly introduces tiny doses of the forbidden food.

“We actually start with 1/600th of a peanut,” said Melanie Makhija, MD, allergist and immunologist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.

In 2020, the FDA approved the first treatment for kids four to 17 with a peanut allergy. Palforzia is a drug made from peanut flour.

“The goal of oral immunotherapy is to trick the child’s body into thinking they’re not allergic,” Makhija said.

A recent study found that 72% of people who suffer from a life-threatening peanut allergy didn’t even know OIT existed.

After one year of OIT, Adelina can now eat one peanut’s worth of protein a day.

“Every morning, I mix in peanuts with something else and I have to eat it,” Adelina said.

Patients, like Adelina, who begin OIT, will need to continue to expose themselves to small doses of peanut protein for the rest of their lives or the life-threatening reactions could return.