Milk Allergy Patch: Swallowing Disorder?


PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It’s a disease of the esophagus that if not treated, can become a critical problem for children, left unable to swallow food because it causes the body to reject it.  But researchers want to know if a small skin patch could hold the key to a cure. milk allergy patch

Eleven-year-old Ashton Ulmer loves hockey! He’s also a foodie, but recently stopped eating nearly everything.

Ashton said, “It just hurt. I didn’t want to eat.”

Ashton’s mother, Melissa Ulmer, said, “When he started pushing the plate away, and started getting a little frustrated, I knew something else was wrong. It was more than just reflux, it was heartburn, belly pain.”

Figuring out what’s wrong when kids have stomach aches is difficult. In Ashton’s case, he was allergic to .…

“Milk protein. The cow protein,” Melissa told Ivanhoe.

Ashton has eosinophilic esophagitis, or EOE and milk triggers it. Jonathan M. Spergel, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia just completed a study on the disorder, which causes the body’s immune system to turn on itself and reject food.

(Read Full Interview)

“It actually hurts to eat,” Dr. Spergel said.

Dr. Spergel’s study focused on 20 children with EOE who wore an inch-long patch with milk protein on their backs. It was absorbed through the skin because traditional allergy shots or pills didn’t work. And the idea behind the patch was to build up a tolerance to the danger food.

“So, we put the patches on their backs and changed the patches every day,” Dr. Spergel explained.

After nine months, the doctors reintroduced milk.

Dr. Spergel said, “Was the disease still there? For some patients it wasn’t. Didn’t work with all patients, but for some patients, they were now able to take milk which they couldn’t before, which is sort of wonderful!”

EOE can create intolerance to all foods and restrict the esophagus, so that swallowing food would be impossible, so doctors say early intervention is critical. This was a phase 2 study but additional studies are needed to get FDA approval.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Donna Parker, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4642

BACKGROUND: Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic, allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus. It occurs when a type of white blood cell, the eosinophil, accumulates in the esophagus. The elevated number of eosinophils cause injury and inflammation to the esophagus. This damage may make eating difficult or uncomfortable, potentially resulting in poor growth, chronic pain, and/or difficulty swallowing. While the exact cause of EoE is not yet known, the general belief is that it’s typically caused by an immune response to specific foods. Many patients with EoE have food or environmental allergies. Researchers have identified a number of genes that play a role in EoE, including a recently discovered gene, calpain14 (CAPN14), that is expressed primarily in the esophagus. These pathways may provide new direction to diagnose, monitor and treat EoE in the future.


TREATMENT: For children with EoE, the primary goal of treatment is to ensure normal growth and development. Steroids and/or dietary modifications are the most common therapies. Treatment regimens are often difficult to maintain and must be individualized according to each family’s concerns and lifestyles. Some patients with EoE take “swallowed steroids” to destroy the eosinophils, fight inflammation and allow healing to take place. The products that are used for EoE treatment were originally studied in asthmatics. They are approved for use in children. In fact, some of the steroids are approved for children as young as 12 months.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Jonathan M. Spergel, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia talked about the allergy patch, “It’s a technology developed by this company out of France called DBV technologies. They created a patch and there was just milk protein that was basically put on this little round patch. We placed it on the back of our patients and the milk would slowly dissolve into the back of the patients. And the body’s immune cells would recognize the milk and say hey this is not a danger protein now. It’s not something I’m supposed to react to. This is something we should be used to. We call this inducing tolerance, saying this is OK, is something we’ve done in allergy immunology for years. It’s like the same principle of allergy shots. You slowly get exposed to something, your body gets used to it.”

(Source: Jonathan M. Spergel, MD, PhD)


Amy Burkholder, Senior Public Relations Specialist


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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Jonathan M. Spergel, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics

Read the entire Q&A