Asthma drug could help treat severe food allergies

Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 9:00 AM

Asthma drug omalizumab

A drug used to treat allergic asthma called Xolair could also help reduce the risk of severe allergic reactions to food, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

Professor Kirsten Perrett, Centre for Food Allergy Research Director, who was at the AAAAI Annual Meeting in Washington where the findings were presented, welcomed the OUtMATCH Study results.

"These findings offer hope to children and adults living with severe food allergy, particularly those with multiple food allergies," she told ABC Radio National Breakfast.

After four months using the injectable drug, many of the study participants - who were allergic to peanuts and at least two other trial-specified foods - were able to tolerate small amounts of the foods they were allergic to. This meant an accidental exposure to their allergen was no longer a life-threatening event.

Prof Perrett explained, when a person with food allergy eats the food, their immune system releases a flood of antibodies called IgE, which attach to immune cells.

Xolair works like a sponge by mopping up these IgE antibodies, preventing them from binding to and activating these cells responsible for allergic reactions.

"It's important to remember Xolair is not a cure for food allergies, so people still need to carry their emergency medication - an adrenaline autoinjector - but this therapy may offer a layer of safety by preventing reactions to small accidental exposures to allergic foods," she said.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved omalizumab for such use. It has not been approved for food allergies in Australia.

Hear more in Professor Perrett's interview with Sally Sara on ABC Radio National Breakfast.

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