"We took a group of children at an age where they weren't going to outgrow their egg allergy, and by the second year 75 percent could tolerate eggs," said the study's lead author, Dr. A. Wesley Burks, chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "About 30 percent of the original group passed the third challenge and can now eat eggs intermittently without symptoms."
Burks, who at the time of the study worked at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said this type of immunotherapy likely would work with other allergens, such as peanuts.
The current study on milk allergy, which was published as a letter in the journal, took place in Spain. It included 12 children between 2 and 15 years old, all of whom were seriously allergic to milk. The children were given increasing doses of undiluted milk for six weeks.
By the end of 10 weeks, all 12 children were able to drink two glasses of milk daily (about 8 ounces every 12 hours). After two years, all the children were still able to drink a glass of milk every day.
There were certain changes in immune system markers in the children, however, suggesting that the immune system might still be responding in some way to the milk.
"Are there any long-term consequences? I think we're still trying to understand what's going on at the cellular level after desensitization, but it seemed like there was still something going on," Green said.
The bottom line, he said, is researchers just don't know if these reactions that don't cause symptoms are doing any harm, or indicate an increased risk for future allergic reactions.
Both Burks and Green cautioned that these s
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