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Specific oral tolerance induction with food in children: transient or persistent effect on food allergy?


Bodo Niggemann, MD
Department of Pediatric Pneumology and Immunology
Children's Hospital Charitè
Humboldt University
Augustenburger Platz 1
13353 Berlin


Background:  The standard treatment of food allergy is elimination of the incriminated food from the diet. Specific oral tolerance induction (SOTI) seems to be a promising approach for a causal treatment; however, it is unclear whether the tolerance achieved is transient or persistent. We report on a subset of three patients of a larger ongoing study who were treated successfully with SOTI treatment, but experienced a secondary loss of tolerance after a period of allergen avoidance.

Methods:  The patients suffered from IgE-mediated allergy either to cow's milk (CM) (patient A) or hen's egg (HE) (patients B and C), confirmed by double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC). SOTI treatment was performed at home on a daily basis until tolerance to a maximum of 250 ml CM or 4.5 g lyophilized HE protein was achieved. The daily maintenance dose was 100 ml CM or 2.5 g HE protein.

Results:  Patients A, B and C reached tolerance to the maximum dose after 37, 41 and 52 weeks, respectively. According to the protocol, patients A and B performed a strict secondary elimination diet for 2 months prior to a follow-up DBPCFC after a maintenance phase of 27 and 39 weeks, respectively. Patient C discontinued treatment for 2 days after 4 weeks on the maintenance dose. Despite previous tolerance, on re-exposure to the allergen all patients experienced moderate systemic allergic reactions.

Conclusions:  We conclude that SOTI can induce transient tolerance in food allergy, but does not necessarily lead to its permanent abrogation. Regular allergen intake seems necessary to maintain the established tolerance.