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Keywords:

  • childhood;
  • desensitization;
  • food allergy;
  • oral immunotherapy;
  • oral tolerance

Abstract

Prevalence rates of food allergy have increased rapidly in recent decades. Of concern, rates of increase are greatest among children under 5 yrs of age and for those food allergies that persist into adulthood such as peanut or tree nut allergy and shellfish allergy. Given these trends, the overall prevalence of food allergy will compound over time as the number of children affected by food allergy soars and a greater proportion of food-allergic children are left with persistent disease into adulthood. It is therefore vital to identify novel curative treatment approaches for food allergy. Acquisition of oral tolerance to the diverse array of ingested food antigens and intestinal microbiota is an active immunologic process that is successfully established in the majority of individuals. In subjects who develop food allergy, there is a failure or loss of oral tolerance acquisition to a limited number of food allergens. Oral immunotherapy (OIT) offers a promising approach to induce specific oral tolerance to selected food allergens and represents a potential strategy for long-term curative treatment of food allergy. This review will summarize the current understanding of oral tolerance and clinical trials of OIT for the treatment of food allergy.