Kate Johnson

March 05, 2012

March 5, 2012 (Orlando, Florida) — Food allergy is the subject of the first international consensus (ICON) statement released by the newly formed International Collaboration in Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (ICAALL), members of the group announced here at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) 2012 Annual Meeting.

The ICON statement addresses the growing prevalence of food allergy worldwide, including symptoms, natural history, diagnosis, and treatment options, reported lead author Wesley Burks, MD, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the newly named chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and president-elect of the AAAAI.

With contributors from around the world, this ICON statement, as well as other statements planned by ICAALL, can address topics from a global perspective, he said.

In the past decade, food anaphylaxis in Australian children has increased by 350%, and food allergy in China has jumped from 3.9% to 7.7%. Some foods such as milk and egg are common allergens worldwide; others are specific to certain geographic areas or cultures.

But in all parts of the world, diagnosis of food allergy remains cumbersome, and treatment incomplete, said Dr. Burks.

"What we have right now is diagnosis and management "based in large part on avoidance, yet there are many studies on active treatment."

Dr. Burks himself is actively involved in some studies using oral and sublingual immunotherapy for food allergy, but these approaches are still in their infancy, he said.

"We're trying to take what we've learned from the studies on allergic rhinitis and apply it to food allergies," he told Medscape Medical News. "You can treat someone [orally or sublingually] and it might change their ability to react temporarily, but it doesn't make it go away. What you'd really like is an active treatment to make it permanently go away."

The ICON statement makes a recommendation related to the prevention of childhood allergy and asthma: in high-risk families around the world, where one parent already has allergic disease, babies should be fed breast milk exclusively for the first 4 to 6 months. "In doing this, there is good evidence that they will have less allergic disease," Dr. Burks explained.

Research is needed in the field, he said. "Diagnostic assays need much better predictability, and we need to understand better the genetics of the disease, as well as the epidemiologic factors."

Dr. Burks reports being a minority stockholder in Allertein and Mast Cell; being on an advisory board or expert panel for Dannon Co Probiotics and Nutricia; consulting for Exploramed Development, Intelliject, McNeil Nutritionals, Merck & Co, Novartis, Pfizer, Portola Pharmaceuticals, and Schering-Plough; receiving research support from the National Institutes of Health, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), the Food Allergy Initiative, the National Peanut Board, SHS, and the Wallace Research Foundation; providing legal consultation or expert witness testimony on the topic of food allergy; and being on the medical board of directors of FAAN.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) 2012 Annual Meeting. Presented March 4, 2012.

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