Food allergy: recent advances in pathophysiology and diagnosis.
Approximately 5% of young children and 3-4% of adults exhibit adverse immune responses to foods in westernized countries, with a tendency to increase. The pathophysiology of food allergy (FA) relies on immune reactions triggered by epitopes, i.e. small amino-acid sequences able to bind to antibodies or cells. Some food allergens share specific physicochemical characteristics that allow them to resist digestion, thus enhancing allergenicity. These allergens encounter specialized dendritic cell populations in the gut, which leads to T-cell priming. In case of IgE-mediated allergy, this process triggers the production of allergen-specific IgE by B cells. Tissue-resident reactive cells, including mast cells, then bind IgE, and allergic reactions are elicited when these cells, with adjacent IgE molecules bound to their surface, are re-exposed to allergen. Allergic reactions occurring in the absence of detectable IgE are labeled non-IgE mediated. The abrogation of oral tolerance which leads to FA is likely favored by genetic disposition and environmental factors (e.g. increased hygiene or enhanced allergenicity of some foods). For an accurate diagnosis, complete medical history, laboratory tests and, in most cases, an oral food challenge are needed. Noticeably, the detection of food-specific IgE (sensitization) does not necessarily indicate clinical allergy. Novel diagnostic methods currently under study focus on the immune responses to specific food proteins or epitopes of specific proteins. Food-induced allergic reactions represent a large array of symptoms involving the skin and gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. They can be attributed to IgE-mediated and non-IgE-mediated (cellular) mechanisms and thus differ in their nature, severity and outcome. Outcome also differs according to allergens.
Gastroentérologie pédiatrique ambulatoire, Allergie alimentaire et Explorations fonctionnelles digestives, Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, 149 rue de Sèvres, Paris, France. email@example.com
Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
Pub Type(s)Journal Article