Oral tolerance to foods normally develops during the first few years of life. An aberration of oral tolerance, food allergy, occurs in 6% of children and 3.5% of adults in the United States. Peanut allergy is one of the most common of the food allergies occurring in 1% of young children and is the leading cause of fatal food anaphylaxis. Only 20% of young children will develop oral tolerance to peanuts by age 5 years. We propose to utilize a combination of treatments, anti-IgE (omalizumab) and peanut oral immunotherapy (OIT) to investigate and possibly hasten the development of oral tolerance to peanuts. This application is based on our data from our work and others that allergen-specific OIT will desensitize and possibly tolerize peanut-allergic subjects. The long term goal and significance of this proposal is to better understand the development of oral tolerance to foods. Our approach will be to study the basophil/mast cell reactivity, antigen-specific T cell responses and mucosal and systemic humoral immune responses in these subjects on anti-IgE and peanut OIT. Our hypothesis is that by beginning treatment with anti-IgE and then starting peanut OIT we will clinically desensitize patients by altering basophil/mast cell reactivity and will cause eventual clinical tolerance to develop because of the activity of allergen-specific T regulatory cells. Previous studies of peanut OIT from our group of investigators show that during the first 6 - 9 months of OIT the subjects become desensitized to peanuts and will tolerate up to 15 peanuts without symptoms. For those subjects on treatment with OIT longer than 2 1/2 years, more than 50% are now clinically tolerant to peanuts. The clinical study this proposal is attached to is a prospective trial at Duke University with peanut-allergic subjects. We will enroll 10 patients. The study will consist of 4 phases: anti-IgE therapy before immunotherapy, a modified rush day(s), a build-up period of 4 months, and a daily home maintenance phase with a final dose of 8000mg peanut flour (~50% peanut protein). The anti-IgE will be started 4 months prior to the initial modified rush day(s) and continued for one month after they have reached the daily maintenance dose of peanut OIT (8 gms) (total anti-IgE time 10 months). Importantly, we will conduct the following mechanistic studies at the beginning of treatment with anti-IgE, prior to starting peanut OIT and then at various appropriate intervals thereafter to determine the individual and collective contribution of anti-IgE and peanut OIT to the immune changes. We want to establish an immunotherapeutic approach that would down-regulate food specific immune responses, lower the risk of allergic reactions to accidental exposure to foods in the millions of Americans who suffer from food allergy and develop an eventual treatment that will cause true clinical tolerance. This study will provide new insights into peanut-specific cellular and humoral immune responses and oral tolerance.

Public Health Relevance

The study is to examine the mechanism of action in the use of anti-IgE and peanut oral immunotherapy in the treatment of adolescents and adults with peanut allergy. Peanut allergy occurs in approximately 1% of young children and 0.4% of the adult population. This study will address an unmet need for active treatment of this disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-IMM-K (02))
Program Officer
Dong, Gang
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Schools of Medicine
Chapel Hill
United States
Zip Code