NIH Makes Recommendations For Food Allergy Research

Armen Hareyan's picture
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In the United States, food allergy occurs in 6 to 8 percent of children under four years of age and in roughly 4 percent of adults, and its prevalence appears to be increasing, particularly in the area of peanut allergy.

Individuals who suffer from food allergies are at risk of a range of reactions, from a mild case of hives to anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening reaction characterized by a drop in blood pressure, upper airway obstruction and severe wheezing. Food allergy causes about 30,000 episodes of anaphylaxis and 100 to 200 deaths annually in the United States.

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Most severe food allergy reactions occur in adolescents and young adults, with peanuts and tree nuts the primary cause. Currently, the only ways to manage food allergies are to avoid the foods that cause reactions and to treat the allergic reactions caused by food exposure.

At the request of Congress, an expert panel of national and international food allergy experts was convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address issues in food allergy research. In its report, now available online, the panel examines the current state of NIH-funded food allergy research and develops and prioritizes a list of recommendations to the HHS Secretary on key opportunities and research directions.

Among the panel's recommendations are to engage NIH and the Food and Drug Administration to resolve impediments to the design and conduct of food allergy clinical trials. Additional recommendations related to NIH-funded research include (1) conduct clinical trials evaluating promising new approaches to preventing and treating food allergies; (2) investigate epidemiological and genetic causes for food allergy and associated diseases, such as atopic dermatitis, asthma and eosinophilic gastroenteritis; (3) facilitate basic and preclinical research studies on allergen structure and animal models of food allergy; and (4) determine the feasibility of an international registry of food-induced allergic reactions that could be used to facilitate clinical study design.

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