Immunotherapy is a form of treatment in which small amounts an allergen (pollen, mold, or animal dander) is given to an allergic patient in slowly increasing doses to induce long-lasting tolerance to that allergen. Immunotherapy is very effective in reducing allergy symptoms and is the closest treatment that we have to a cure. The trick is to be able to safely deliver a substance that a patient is very allergic to (usually a protein) in a manner that allows the immune system time to develop a protective tolerance response without triggering an allergic reaction. This is routinely accomplished with allergy shots for airborne allergens. Unfortunately, efforts to treat life-threatening food allergy with immunotherapy without triggering a severe and possible fatal allergic reaction have had limited success.
One of the goals of research efforts in food allergy has been to develop a food look-alike protein – one that can stimulate an effective tolerance response to a food but without the ability to trigger an allergic reaction. Somewhat like a novice sword fighter using wooden swords to train until he is experienced enough to handle the real thing.
Recently researchers at The Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics in Spain have developed three hypoallergenic variants of the protein most commonly responsible for allergic reactions to peach (Pru p 3). Peach is the most common food allergy in Spain and Mediterranean region. The hope is that these proteins can be used safely as a vaccine in specific immunotherapy to treat patients with allergy to peach for whom the only currently available treatment is life long avoidance.