Double-blind, placebo-controlled oral food challenges (DBPCFCs) are considered the "gold standard" for diagnosing food hypersensitivity, but the dose that elicits positive challenges, or determinants that may predict dose-response relationships, have not been reported.
Our purpose was to determine the quantity of food that elicits reactions during DBPCFCs and to evaluate parameters that may predict the provocative dose and severity of reaction.
We reviewed challenge data for all positive challenges to 6 common allergenic foods in children with atopic dermatitis evaluated for food allergy over a 13-year period. Challenge food was generally administered in 6 doses at 10- to 15-minute intervals beginning with 400 to 500 mg and completing with a total of 8 to 10 g of food. An open feeding of a larger portion followed negative challenges. At the physician's discretion, a lower starting dose was occasionally used (100 mg, 250 mg). Food-specific IgE antibody concentrations (radioallergosorbent test [RAST]) were determined on stored sera of 20% of the challenges selected randomly and 99.6% had prick skin tests (PSTs) performed to the challenged food.
A total of 196 children (45% male; median age 5 y 9 mo; atopic dermatitis 98%, asthma 62%) had 513 positive challenges distributed as follows: egg 267, milk 117, soy 53, wheat 40, peanut 24, fish 12. The percentage of children reacting at the first dose (500 mg or less) was as follows: egg 49%, milk 55%, soy 28%, wheat 25%, peanut 26%, and fish 17%. Twenty-six milk challenges and 22 egg challenges were positive at a first dose of 250 mg; 3 milk challenges and 7 egg challenges were positive at a first dose of 100 mg. Eleven percent of the reactions that occurred on the first dose were severe. The percentage reacting after the final dose of the DBPCFC (or during open challenge) were egg 11%, milk 12%, soy 19%, wheat 12.5%, peanut 8.7%, and fish 25%. There was not a strong correlation between PST absolute wheal size or score (adjusted for histamine controls) and dose at reaction or severity of reaction (R(s) range -0.22 to 0.39 for particular foods). Serum concentration of food-specific IgE did not correlate well with the dose causing a reaction or with severity (R(s) range -0.40 to 0.55 for particular foods).
This food-allergic population may react to as little as 100 mg of food, possibly less, and the dose causing a reaction and the severity of reaction is not predicted by PST or RAST. Lower doses (100 mg or less) should be investigated for their appropriateness in initiating DBPCFCs.