Background : The possibility of inducing oral desensitization in patients with food allergy is still controversial and no standardized programmes are yet available.
Aim : To evaluate the safety and efficacy of oral desensitization in patients with allergy induced by the most common food allergens.
Methods : Fifty-nine patients with food allergy underwent an oral desensitizing treatment according to standardized protocols. The control group consisted of age- and sex-matched subjects, who followed a strict elimination diet. Specific immunoglobulin E and immunoglobulin G4 were assessed at baseline and after 6, 12 and 18 months.
Results : The majority of patients (83.3%) successfully completed the treatment. During treatment, 51.1% of subjects experienced some mild side-effects, easily controlled by the oral administration of antihistamines or sodium cromolyn. Specific immunoglobulin E showed a significant decrease, whilst specific immunoglobulin G4 showed a significant increase in all patients.
Conclusions : The immunological findings induced by oral desensitization in food allergy allow us to hypothesize that oral tolerance may be mediated by the same mechanisms as those involved in traditional desensitizing treatments for respiratory allergies. Moreover, the proposed standardized oral desensitization protocols may represent an effective alternative approach in the management of food-allergic patients.