Sunday, August 11, 2013

WWCF: Immunity to venom or immunity to food allergies?

Which will come first?

Immunity to deadly venom (snakes, spiders, wasps, etc.)
OR
Immunity to life-threatening food allergies (peanuts, shellfish, etc.)

Since these share the root problem of anaphylaxis, an immune system response to allergen exposure, they may be solved together. I'm not sure which one is the most breathtaking in terms of a media response, but from the standpoint of fatalities, animals top food. However, both are fairly small in absolute magnitude. While cases of anaphylaxis seem to be on the rise, it is important to note this is not the low-hanging fruit of death prevention. 

Of course, it is not all about dying. Living with a food allergy as many do is life under constant threat knowing that something many people enjoy as a small part of everyday life is potentially your death sentence. And if you don't die, it is a very agonizing medical emergency. To an allergic person, hearing you've just eaten lobster-filled eggs can be as shocking and unforgettable as hearing that your baby is ugly. Similarly, most of us go through life with a primordial fear of that which hisses or buzzes. So, don't discount too steeply the long-term benefits from immunity to these problems. 

Keeping in mind that I am asking about immunity rather than developed tolerance through incremental dose therapy (i.e., not just a shrinkage of the problem), these both seem more distant especially in light of the better living through prevention (avoidance) option. I would count any sure-fire, immediate result therapy that stops anaphylaxis in its tracks as "immunity". 

My guess is that because children are most at risk with food allergies and we can kill or avoid venomous animals with increasing ease, food allergy immunity comes first. But I'll add that it will probably be 30+ years away, and I would guess it will be the serendipitous result of other research/developments.