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Food Allergy Research

The dramatic rise in all types of allergies in the past 20 to 30 years, including food allergies, is striking. There is evidence that peanut allergy has doubled just in the last five years. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that all food allergies are on the rise and three million children in the United States – including nearly 8 percent of young children – now have at least one food allergy.

Currently we are asking for your support for the world’s first study on the treatment of wheat allergy.

Renowned food allergy expert Robert Wood, M.D., chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and author of  Food Allergies for Dummies, was the first to show that some children do outgrow a peanut allergy. Our investigators have now shown that, contrary to popular belief, milk and egg allergies are outgrown much more slowly than previously thought and that a great number of children never outgrow these allergies.

Dr. Wood is the principal investigator of 20 different research studies and a co-investigator in five other studies. All are directed, in one way or another, at addressing the critical challenges of asthma and food allergies.

Current Research and Planned Trials
1.  Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Food Allergy
      • In 2007, Dr. Wood initiated a study of oral immunotherapy (gradually increasing the exposure to the allergen by mouth) for children with severe, persistent milk allergy. This was the world’s first study of its kind and it produced dramatic results, showing that the average child could tolerate over 100 times more milk after the treatment, and that some appear to be completely cured. A second milk study took place in 2008, demonstrating that oral immunotherapy is superior to sublingual (placing allergen extract under the tongue) treatment. A third study began in 2011 and is focusing on the potential value of combining oral immunotherapy with an anti-allergy medication called Xolair. This study is still underway.
      • In 2010, Dr. Wood began a study of both oral and sublingual immunotherapy for peanut allergy, a unique combination that had never been studied for this highly prevalent and potentially deadly allergy. This study was recently completed and will be submitted for publication in the near future. Two new, exciting studies just started in 2013:
             • The world’s first study of oral immunotherapy for wheat allergy
             • A study of peanut immunotherapy in 1 to 3 year-olds. Now that we know enough about the safety of
these treatments from studies in adults and older children, this study will help to determine whether treatment could be more effective when started at an earlier age.

2.  The Natural History of Childhood Food Allergy
This is a series of studies conducted over the past 10 years —and which will likely continue for next 10 to 20 years—on how food allergy behaves over time, what is outgrown and what is not, and WHY, especially why it has become so much more common in recent years.

3.  The Consortium for Food Allergy Research (CoFAR). Five academic medical centers, including Hopkins Children’s Center, have been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for another five years and charged with the task of exploring the rise in food allergy and developing THE CURE. Thus far, the CoFAR team has completed studies on oral immunotherapy for egg allergy (published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine), sublingual immunotherapy for peanut allergy, and treatment of peanut allergy with modified, recombinant peanut proteins — a “peanut vaccine.”

The team also has ongoing studies on the natural progression of food allergy from infancy through age 10 and an allergic disease called eosinophilic esophagitis. Two new CoFAR studies were also recently initiated:
       •  Immunotherapy for egg allergy
       •  Treating peanut allergy with a peanut skin patch

4.  The Inner-City Asthma Consortium (ICAC)
Eight academic medical centers, including Hopkins Children’s Center, and funded by the NIH, are seeking to unravel the causes of and develop new treatments for asthma in inner-city children. In fact, Dr. Wood is the only doctor in the U.S. to be a principle investigator on both CoFAR and ICAC studies. Current studies in this consortium include:
      • A birth cohort study of inner-city asthma
      • Studies of immunotherapy for cockroach allergy, the first studies of their kind in the world
      • Studies on other novel treatments for severe asthma

What’s on the Horizon?
We are already planning our research docket for 2014. We are very excited about three major studies -- funding permitting -- now under development:
      • Using a combination of Chinese herbs and peanut immunotherapy
      • Comparing milk oral immunotherapy to treatment with a milk skin patch
      • A new vehicle to deliver sublingual immunotherapy

While some of these studies have NIH funding, it is critical to recognize that many could never happen without your support. With sufficient philanthropic funds moving forward, our dream of developing a true cure for food allergy can be realized.

How You Can Help Advance Research
Dr. Wood and his team of experts have extensive experience in clinical and laboratory research in asthma and allergy, including the development of novel allergy treatments. They are therefore especially well equipped to take on this important challenge. A true treatment is on the horizon within this decade.

For more information on how to help fund these programs and/or the work of Dr. Wood and his team, contact the Office of Development at 410.361.6493

 Examples of Helping: Proceeds from these ventures help fund food allergy research here at Johns Hopkins.

  • Allergic Kids Just Want to Be One of the Gang: A mother sets out to illustrate for her son, and others like him, that food allergies are not roadblocks to healthy, happy lives. 
  • A Young Singer Makes Funding Food Allergies EZ: A teenager’s creates an effective fundraiser for food allergy research at Hopkins Children’s.   


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