New Efforts To Understand Food Allergies

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With guest host Jane Clayson.

Fifteen million Americans now have food allergies—including one in every 13 kids. We’ll ask why and what can be done.

Lesley Solomon grabbing one of the epipens she always carries from her bag. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Lesley Solomon grabbing one of the epipens she always carries from her bag. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

You’d be surprised what doctors still don’t know about food allergies. The number of children with allergies shot up fifty percent in recent years. Why? Are we keeping kids too clean? Is it the chemicals we use in our lives? Unclear. But bring a peanut near a child allergic to it, and parents watch in terror as their little ones go into shock, and reach for the Epipen. This hour On Point, the cutting-edge research to solve the puzzle of food allergies. — Jane Clayson


Martha Bebinger, health reporter for WBUR. (@mbebinger)

Lesley Solomon, executive director of the Brigham & Women's Innovation Hub. One of four Boston-area mothers who founded the Food Allergy Science Initiative at the Broad Institute. (@solomon50)

Ruslan Medzhitov, professor of immunobiology at the Yale University School of Medicine. Leader of the Food Allergy Science Initiative.

Sara Anvari, assistant professor of pediatrics in the immunology, allergy and rheumatology section of the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital. Practicing clinician who treats children with food allergies, asthma and other immune system illnesses.

From Tom’s Reading List

WBUR | CommonHealth: Thanks To Efforts Of 4 Moms, Broad Institute Digs Into Biology Of Food Allergies — "Peanuts. Milk. Eggs. Words that trigger panic for many parents, teachers and kids. Today one in 13 children has a food allergy, a rate that increased 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. No one seems to know why."

Boston Globe: New institute tackles the mysteries of food allergies — "Allergies occur when the body’s natural defenses against harmful invaders go haywire, reacting to innocent substances as though they were deadly invaders. But little is understood about what causes people to have allergies, why certain substances trigger allergic reactions, why some people are affected and not others, why some people 'grow out' of their allergies, and how to accurately diagnose food allergies."

Cell Reports: Dietary Fiber and Bacterial SCFA Enhance Oral Tolerance and Protect against Food Allergy through Diverse Cellular Pathways -- "Excessive hygiene has been evoked to explain increased allergy incidence but more recently, alterations in gut microflora composition have been suggested as an alternative explanation.This is evident in germ-free mice, which tend to develop more-severe allergies and given that specific probiotic treatment can alleviate food allergy symptoms."

This program aired on June 28, 2016.


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