Despite the small number of patients in the trial – 19 – the findings are illuminating and encouraging, investigators say. “Our findings suggest that oral immunotherapy gradually retrains the immune system to completely disregard or to better tolerate the allergens in milk that previously caused allergic reactions,” says senior investigator Robert Wood.
In the double-blinded and placebo-controlled study, the researchers compared a group of children receiving milk powder to a group of children receiving placebo identical in appearance and taste to real milk powder. Neither the patients nor the investigators knew which child received which powder.
Researchers followed allergic reactions over four months among 19 children with severe and persistent milk allergy, six to 17 years of age. Of the 19 patients, twelve received progressively higher doses of milk protein, and seven received placebo. At the beginning of the study, the children were able to tolerate on average only 40 mg (.04 ounces or a quarter of a teaspoon) of milk.
At the end of the four-month study, both groups were given milk powder as a “challenge” to see what dose would cause reaction after the treatment. The children who had been receiving increasingly higher doses of milk protein over a few months were able to tolerate a median dose of 5,140 mg (over five ounces) of milk without having any allergic reaction or with mild symptoms, such as mouth itching and minor abdominal discomfort. Those who had been getting the placebo remained unable to tolerate doses higher than the 40 mg of milk powder without having an allergic reaction. In the group receiving milk protein, the lowest tolerance dose was 2,540 mg (2.5 ounces) and the highest was 8,140 mg (eight ounces).
Lab tests showed the children who regularly drank or ate milk had more antibodies to milk in their blood, yet were able to better tolerate milk than those who took the placebo. Researchers say, tolerance in children treated with milk continued to build over time, and recommend that these children continue to consume milk daily to maintain their resistance. The researchers caution that it remains unclear whether the children would maintain their tolerance once they stop consuming milk regularly.
MEDICA.de; Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine