It's very possible that the next decade will bring a dramatic change when it comes to the advancement of allergies, thanks to results from a new study demonstrating how allergy shots given during pregnancy could be the key to preventing unborn offspring from developing allergies after birth.
Researchers from the US and Japan recently collaborated on an experimental treatment using mice to demonstrate their belief that special shots given to pregnant women could halt the development of human allergies including atopic dermatitis, asthma, pollen and food allergies.
"We discovered that preventing infant (mice) from creating antibodies would effectively diminish the risk of allergies in their adult lives," said Hirohisa Saito, lead researcher and deputy director at the National Center for Child Health and Development.
Saito added that administering allergy shots during pregnancy has the potential to kill the particular cells that cause allergic reactions. Around half of the popular of Japan has been reported to struggle with some form of allergy, according to the health ministry, including a rise in hay fever, which is an allergic response to indoor and outdoor allergens - including pollen, dust and pet dander.
The mice experiments have shown promise. Researchers were able to prevent IgE antibodies (antibodies that combine with allergens and trigger allergic reactions) from developing in baby mice for six weeks. According to Saito, this would be equivalent to roughly five months in human offspring.
"Fighting them within that period is critical,” said Saito. “Once they appear in our immune system, it’s impossible to cure allergies.”
This type of anti-IgE medicine injected into expectant mothers could effectively immunize unborn babies, he added, and would be extremely effective in preventing a vast array of allergies in the future.
Public worry about immunizations is certainly an issue, especially when it comes to giving allergy shots to newborn babies. Saito believes that this research could effectively alleviate these concerns in the future, as the shots would be given to the mother during pregnancy. He cited previous studies done on easing the symptoms of asthma in pregnant women, which have been proven safe for the fetus.
"Injecting it into the mother could have the same effect as injecting it directly into the child," he said.
Fortunately, no side effects have been reported so far, and researchers hope that this type of treatment could be commercialized within five to 10 years.