What Happens After Oral Immunotherapy?

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Parents of children with food allergies have had a lot of questions about what happens after oral immunotherapy (OIT). Once their child finishes their treatment, how long will the desensitization last? What will happen if they stop eating the allergen — would their allergy come back in full force? And how much of the allergen should their child eat to maintain desensitization?

(If you’re new to the wild world of food allergies, oral immunotherapy is when a patient consumes small, increasing amounts of their allergen in a controlled setting. Over time, they hopefully become desensitized to the allergen and are able to tolerate it.)

oral immunotherapy

There have been SO many questions, but now we finally have some answers. Stanford University researchers presenting at the recent AAAAI Annual Meeting provided long-awaited follow-up data for patients who were successful in achieving food allergy desensitization through oral immunotherapy (OIT).

Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, FAAAAI, from the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research at Stanford University School of Medicine, says researched checked in with 70 patients who completed phase 1 clinical trials for multiple OIT.

The first group included patients who were contacted 18-73 months after they reached desensitization:

  • 56% chose to consume 2g of their allergen’s proteins
  • 33% chose to consume 300mg to 2g of their allergen’s protein

The second group included patients who were contacted 11-46 months after they reached desensitization:

  • 30% chose to consume 2g of their allergen’s proteins
  • 60% chose to consume 300mg to 2g of their allergen’s protein

(For reference, a single peanut contains about 240mg of peanut protein. A 2g dose of peanut protein is the equivalent of about 8.3 peanuts.)

The subjects were retested with food challenges and it didn’t appear to matter if they had consumed 2g or far less — all subjects in both groups remained desensitized to at least 2g of each of their food allergens.

This is important news for the food allergy community. The idea of feeding their severely food-allergic child a dose of their allergen — at home, away from the watchful eyes of doctors or nurses — is terrifying for many parents.

Having evidence that OIT “graduates” are able to maintain their desensitization — even while ingesting different amounts of their allergen protein — is the reassurance some families will need in order to give OIT a try.


Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

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