BACTERIA MAY PREVENT FOOD ALLERGIES

Peanut allergies can be especially dangerous.A new study conducted by a team at the University of Chicago has identified the bacteria Clostridia as a potential element in treating food allergies, specifically peanut allergens. Over the past two decades, the prevalence of food allergies in children has risen dramatically. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an 18 percent increase in food allergies among children between 1997 and 2007 alone.Food allergies have become a public health risk, especially considering the presence of allergens in school settings. For some, an anaphylactic reaction can occur from nothing more than inhaling allergen particles in the air, giving any location the potential to be dangerous. Furthermore, children suffering severe food allergies have to carry around EpiPens at all times and have to be especially cautious in cafeterias and restaurants. This can be an isolating experience during a child’s formative years. Though there is no cure for food allergies, with more testing the study could lead to advancements in pharmacy technology and the food industry to develop a potential treatment.

How food allergies work

Food allergies are sometimes confused with food intolerance because they can exhibit similar symptoms, but the two conditions are actually distinctly different.Food intolerance may cause discomfort but the symptoms often do not present right away, whereas a food allergy causes a near immediate reaction from the immune system.Furthermore, food intolerance does not cause an immune system reaction and those effected may still be able to eat small amounts of the food to which they are intolerant.

Food allergies can cause a variety of medical problems ranging from mild to severe. Common symptoms include nausea, cramping, vomiting, hives and swelling of the lips, tongue and throat.In severe cases, a condition known as anaphylaxis can be potentially life-threatening, causing breathing trouble and low blood pressure.Those with food allergies must entirely abstain from the offending food(s) to avoid a dangerous reaction. Interestingly enough, some children outgrow food allergies as they age, eventually making them able to eat the food that once caused a problem.The increased use of antibiotics and low exposure to germs are reasons why children lose entire strains of healthy bacteria, which can potentially lead to allergies.7

Bacteria might be the key to preventing food allergies

The study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To reach the conclusion that Clostridia is a potential treatment option for peanut allergies, scientists first bred two groups of mice, one to have no gut bacteria and another to have sparse levels of gut bacteria due to antibiotic treatment. These two groups were then dosed with peanut allergens and compared to mice displaying healthy amounts of the bacteria. This resulted in higher levels of the allergens in the groups of mice with little or no gut bacteria, suggesting that the bacteria helped eliminate the allergen.The team then dosed the mice with Clostridia as well as another bacteria strain. They found that Clostridia caused the levels of allergens in all of  the groups of mice to drastically decrease, whereas the other bacteria had no effect.

This research suggests that Clostridia has the special ability to help treat food allergies. However, as the team only tested mice using peanut allergens it’s still to early to know how it will effect other common allergy-causing foods. The team plans to test lactose and other allergens in the future.10 If further research proves fruitful, there’s potential for the bacteria to be encapsulated and used to defend the GI tracts of those with food allergies.

Keeping kids with allergies safe

Parents sending food-allergic kids off to school are likely filled with anxiety. After all, food allergies can be life-threatening and the mix of busy cafeterias, classroom parties and extracurricular snacks leaves children potentially exposed to allergens at any time. Before the school year begins, you’ll want to have a meeting with your child’s pediatrician to discuss food safety and obtain a letter explaining the specifics of your child’s allergy. Then meet with the principal or another administrator, along with the school nurse, to alert them to your child’s medical needs. Provide school officials with the note from your physician explaining the necessary precautions and treatment recommendations.11 This will help ensure that if your child suffers an allergic reaction, there will be staff nearby with knowledge of how to handle the situation.

Also, make sure to talk with your child and discuss the importance of not eating foods that are potentially hazardous. Even if certain foods are free of specific allergens, they may have been produced in a facility that contains those allergens, meaning they could still cause a reaction.

1“Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization” by Andrew T. Stefkaa, Taylor Feehleya, Prabhanshu Tripathia, Ju Qiub, Kathy McCoyc, Sarkis K. Mazmaniand, Melissa Y. Tjotae, Goo-Young Seoa, Severine Caoa, Betty R. Theriaultf, Dionysios A. Antonopoulose,g, Liang Zhoub, Eugene B. Change, Yang-Xin Fua, and Cathryn R. Naglera. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Agust 5, 2014. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/08/21/1412008111.abstract?sid=c4fabe2d-50ca-43f8-b35e-fdb65de3737b

2“What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy?” by James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D. Mayo Clinic. June 3, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

3“What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy?” by James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D. Mayo Clinic. June 3, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

4“What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy?” by James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D. Mayo Clinic. June 3, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

5“What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy?” by James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D. Mayo Clinic. June 3, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

6“What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy?” by James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D. Mayo Clinic. June 3, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

7“What’s the difference between a food intolerance and food allergy?” by James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D. Mayo Clinic. June 3, 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538

8“Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization” by Andrew T. Stefkaa, Taylor Feehleya, Prabhanshu Tripathia, Ju Qiub, Kathy McCoyc, Sarkis K. Mazmaniand, Melissa Y. Tjotae, Goo-Young Seoa, Severine Caoa, Betty R. Theriaultf, Dionysios A. Antonopoulose,g, Liang Zhoub, Eugene B. Change, Yang-Xin Fua, and Cathryn R. Naglera. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Agust 5, 2014. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/08/21/1412008111.abstract?sid=c4fabe2d-50ca-43f8-b35e-fdb65de3737b

9“Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization” by Andrew T. Stefkaa, Taylor Feehleya, Prabhanshu Tripathia, Ju Qiub, Kathy McCoyc, Sarkis K. Mazmaniand, Melissa Y. Tjotae, Goo-Young Seoa, Severine Caoa, Betty R. Theriaultf, Dionysios A. Antonopoulose,g, Liang Zhoub, Eugene B. Change, Yang-Xin Fua, and Cathryn R. Naglera. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Agust 5, 2014. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/08/21/1412008111.abstract?sid=c4fabe2d-50ca-43f8-b35e-fdb65de3737b

10“The Bacteria That May One Day Cure Food Allergies” by Mandy Oaklander. Time. August 25, 2014. http://time.com/3175909/gut-bacteria-food-allergies/

11“Take steps to ensure your child has a safe school year” by Beth Puliti. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. May 2013. http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/resourcespre.php?id=137

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