Health Beat: Egg beater: Overcoming a food allergy

Posted: 9:59 AM EDT Apr 15, 2013   Updated: 5:51 PM EDT Apr 16, 2013
Overcoming a food allergy

For 15 million Americans with food allergies, what they eat could kill them. But now, doctors may have found a way to help them beat those allergies.

Food allergies are becoming all too common.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an 18 percent increase between 1997 and 2007.

Take, Hannah Gooch, for example. She loves eggs, but she can't eat them because she's allergic. Her mom, Necia, said they had to do a "strict avoidance" of anything with egg in it.

Then, Hannah took part in an egg allergy study, led by University of North Carolina Dr. Wesley Burks.  

"There’s no proactive treatment, and that's the reason this study was done, Burks said.

During the study, kids with the allergy ate egg protein every day.

"They’d give me a dose of egg protein in powder," explained Hannah, whose parents would mix it with applesauce.

About once a year, they would eat a real egg to test their tolerance. At the end of three years, 45 percent of the kids could add egg to their diets.

“… They just said Hannah can have egg, and we were all like, 'What!'” exclaimed Necia.

Burks said the results are promising. 

"More phase two and then more phase three studies need to be done before we can say, 'Yes, it’s the right thing to do,'" said Burks.

Either way, the study has changed Hannah’s life.

The other phased studies are in the works, and if successful, this could be applied to other common food allergies, like milk and peanuts.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary

DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. Wesley Burks about overcoming a food allergy