Non-pathogenic gut bacteria, bioengineered to produce a compound that regulates immune response in the gut, may offer significant potential for beating food allergies, if results from an animal study can be translated to humans.
Authors Christophe Frossard and Philippe Eigenmann from the University Hospital of Geneva in collaboration with Lothar Steidler from University College Cork bioengineered a strain of Lactococcus lactis to produce anti-inflammatory interleukin-10 (IL-10), a potential regulator for food tolerance.
Writing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Frossard reports that oral administration of this non-pathogenic strain effectively reduced food-induced anaphylaxis (severe allergic response) in mice and suppressed the production of an antibody capable of initiating the most powerful immune reactions.
"These findings open interesting potential options in human beings for the prevention of allergies elicited through sensitization in the gut," wrote the authors in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Indeed, corresponding author, Dr. Philippe Eigenmann told FoodNavigator.com: "The potential for the industry is to use in "health" foods probiotics that are engineered to be better tolerance inductor. The big question is how will be accepted by the consumer."
An estimated four per cent of adults and eight per cent of children in the 380m EU population suffer from food allergies, according to the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients' Associations.
The researchers used a mouse model of food allergy to test their hypothesis that oral administration of Lactococcus lactis bioengineered to secrete murine IL-10 could inhibit and/or stop sensitisation.
The mice were sensitised to beta-lactoglobulin in the presence of cholera toxin and then given the L. lactis IL-10-secreting strain. The researchers report that anaphylaxis was reduced significantly, while blood levels of antigen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) - an antibody subclass capable of initiating the most powerful immune reactions- were also significantly reduced.
Moreover, production of antigen-specific immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the gut
"These results suggest that a microorganism bioengineered to deliver IL-10 in the gut can decrease food-induced anaphylaxis and provide an option to prevent IgE-type sensitization to common food allergens," state the researchers.
Further research is ongoing and Dr. Eigenmann told this website: "The research has been extended to patients with inflammatory colitis in whom the microorganism is well tolerated (phase I trial), and there is some indication that it is also effective for treatment.
"The challenge is going to phase two human trials for prevention, but also for treatment of food allergy," he said.
Allergen labelling regulations that came into force on 25 November require companies to label all pre-packed foods if they contain any of the 12 listed allergenic foods as an ingredient.
The mandatory inclusion on food labels of the most common food allergen ingredients and their derivatives covers cereals containing gluten, fish, crustaceans, egg, peanut, soybeans, milk and dairy products including lactose, nuts, celery, mustard, sesame seed, and sulphites.
Source: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (Elsevier)
Published on-line ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2006.12.615
"Oral administration of an IL-10-secreting Lactococcus lactis strain prevents food-induced IgE sensitization"
Authors: C.P. Frossard, L. Steidler, P.A. Eigenmann