they finally end their lives as displaced people. humidity humidity, al jazeera, in northern sri lanka. from all four corners of the globe, we have the main stories of the day, aljazeera.com. aljazeera.com. ♪ >> for millions it is a simple act, but for me it is often a game of chance. one wrong bite and my immune system goes haywire. for me, a peanut becomes an extreme threat. my heart races. my skin erupts. my stomach is under seige. i am sick, and i am in trouble, but i'm not alone. >> you have five minutes, what are you going to do about it?
>> life with food allergies is an epidemic. an i.g.e. is the match that lights the fire behind food allergy. can anything be done to stop it? now the fascinating research that can change everything. >> so it's just completely changed the game. >> yeah, yeah, it's just been unbelievable. >> this is "techknow". a show about innovations that can change lives. >> the science of fighting a wildfire. >> we're going to explore the intersection of hardware and humanity, but we're doing it in a unique way. this is a show about science... >> oh! >> oh my god! >> by scientists. >> "techknow" investigates extreme food allergies. >> hey guys this episode gets personal, i'm here with doctor crystal dilworth and marita davison, and my epi pen. and i have it for a very
important reason which is i'm allergic to peanuts and some other nuts too, but if i get too close to peanuts, one of you would have to grab this, take off the lid, and jab me in the thigh. >> i'm lucky, i don't have any allergies, but phil i know this is something you have to really organize your life around. i mean even here at this coffee shop you have to ask if anything here is cooked with peanuts or peanut oil before you can order off the menu. >> kind of a pain when it comes to ordering in places like this. >> but you know what's surprising and i would say really alarming is that the number of people like you, phil, with food allergies has skyrocketed in the last few decades, and we went to find out why we're seeing a rise in food allergies and if we might find a cure. >> it was terrifying. his face basically swelled up like twice the normal size. >> when you've held your daughter in your arms almost dying because of something as
basic as milk. >> every three minutes a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. >> it's like navigating a minefield at all times. >> the statistics are alarming. the u.s. centers for disease control report that from 1997 to 2011 the number of children with food allergies increased 50%. over 15 million americans suffer from food allergies at a cost of $25 billion dollars each year. >> a hundred years ago people did have food allergies but it wasn't the same epidemic proportions that we're suffering from now. >> dr. kari nadeau is an expert in adult and pediatric allergies. she's head of a special allergy research center at stanford university. >> people are very much living with this disabling worry of having an accidental exposure.
>> allergic reactions occur when the body's immune system overreacts to certain proteins in food. while any food can trigger a reaction, about 90% are caused by "the top 8" -- milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shell fish, soy and wheat. when the immune system launches a protective response, cells release antibodies known as i-g-e or immunoglobin e. >> an i.g.e. is the match that lights the fire behind allergy. within 6 minutes you can have this very serious allergic attack. this young lady presented here after ingesting some cashews. >> this is what anaphylaxis looks like. this little girl's mother gave techknow permission to use this video. >> anything on her tummy? yep, and on her back too. >> and she's hot to the touch. >> so gieve, come and take your food now. >> nine year old gieve gregg is allergic to tree nuts and eggs.
he's eating foods he couldn't eat before. >> how severe are the allergies? >> the first time we were exposed to it we had no idea how dangerous this is. >> that must be terrifying. >> it was terrifying. >> how is it gieve, is it good? [laughter] >> raana gregg is gieve's mother. >> thank goodness he didn't have any breathing problems at that point. it was just the hives, and the swelling. >> at stanford, a treatment called oral immunotherapy was effectively desensitizing patients--one allergen at a time. 11 year old lauren is being treated for her nut allergies. >> so you get the choice of mixing it with applesauce, chocolate pudding or vanilla pudding. >> okay, chocolate. >> but doctors faced a new problem. a third of people who suffer from allergies are allergic to not just one, but multiple foods. >> the minute you have a food allergy you also have a higher rate and chance of having other
food allergies too. >> in 2009, the team at stanford decided to tackle this problem head on. >> no one was actually looking at trying to treat people with multi-allergies. >> so just one up until that point. >> exactly. if someone has milk, egg, wheat, cashew, peanut, let's treat them all at the same time but very carefully at low doses. >> i had a lot of anxiety, mostly going to school. at lunch i had to sit at my own table with all the kids with food allergies. i couldn't sit with my friends. >> a young girl named tessa grosso who was allergic to nearly a dozen different foods was one of the first to enroll in stanford's multi-allergy study. >> so tessa, tell me what food you're eating now. >> tessa is one of the toughest to treat patients, let's focus on that and let's do it safely. >> here the breakthrough came in the form of an ige suppressing asthma drug called xolair. >> so we looked at that and we
thought, could that protective cover help us increase the ability to get children and adults to food allergens to the same level that they'd like to eat them. >> according to the national institutes of health about 50% of people with food allergies also have asthma. the link between the two? symptoms that can trigger an attack on the lungs. since fda approval in 2003, xolair has proven effective in severe cases of asthma. >> that medicine in and of itself, it's engineered to be able to bind to this molecule i-g-e. if it's working against ige, and we know that ige is important in food allergy, what if we start giving it initially to people with food allergies and then we start giving them the food that they're allergic to. >> that's got to make a huge difference for patients right? >> what normally would take four five years to desensitize, to let's say five allergens, could we compact that and have it happen over six to nine months?
>> without this treatment it might have taken over a decade to desensitize tessa of all her food allergies. >> now tell me about your experience in the study, what was that like for you? >> once i really started to eat the new foods i could really feel my life changing. >> at 13, tessa can freely eat the foods she was allergic to. >> do you feel that you're cured? >> technically i was desensitized to it. >> i just want to know what's the best part now that you've graduated. >> i can just go off on my own with my friends and not worry about it. >> the freedom that we have is unbelievable. >> tessa isn't alone. according to dr. nadeau, out of 700 patients in the studies performed since 2003, all who have completed the trials, have had positive results. just like gieve gregg--once he was given xolair, his life changed.
this photo shows the difference in gieve's skin test between february and december of 2015. >> what happened is night and day. he went in one day with intervals of half an hour they went 5, 50, 150, 300, 625, and 1,250 miligrams in one day! >> so it's completely changed the game. >> not even close yeah yeah. >> hi gieve how are you? how's the dose today? >> [laughter] is it pretty good? that's so great! >> gieve's success created a lot of optimism. others like lauren are now part of the trial supported through the national institutes of health. >> so you're going to get another xolair shot and then we're going to introduce your foods. >> we used the multi-therapy that was customized to what the person was allergic to, in addition to the xolair and that combination really helped patients. >> get all the scrapings out.
like that, nice and clean cause it's stuck on the back too. >> coming up. >> wow that's big. >> our own phil torres takes us inside his own battle with a peanut allergy. >> we want to hear what you think about these stories. join the conversation by following us on twitter and at aljazeera.com/techknow.
>> we gonna bring this city back one note at a time. >> proudest moment in my life. al jazeera america gives you the total news experience anytime, anywhere. more on every screen. digital, mobile, social. visit aljazeera.com. follow @ajam on twitter. and like aljazeera america on facebook for more stories, more access, more conversations. so you don't just stay on top of the news, go deeper and get more perspectives on every issue. al jazeera america. >> i love food, but deciding where to eat can be a challenge. >> hello gentlemen,
how are you today? >> very good, thank you. >> most of the time, the first thing i have to do is ask-- does this contain peanuts? but not here because the chef has a peanut allergy. >> so anything i order will be flagged, taken care of back there. >> absolutely. >> gentlemen, how is everything? >> it is amazing. >> brad miller is owner and executive chef at santa monica's ox & son restaurant. >> so you as a chef, you take allergies pretty seriously. >> yeah, i have an all nut allergy, i'm allergic to all nuts. >> you know i've got to say for me there's been times i've been at a restaurant when i've asked the server if there's peanuts in there. sometimes they don't quite give off the confidence that they know in the kitchen it's being taken care of. >> absolutely it's one of those things where anytime you have a customer even for myself, i don't want to cook in the same pan, fry in the same oil, you really have to be sensitive to this because this could really, not just ruin somebody's life, it could take somebody's life. they're very serious allergies especially nut allergies.
>> for me it's been a lifetime. ever since i was a kid peanuts were always something i avoided. but for this assignment we needed to put real science behind my allergic reactions. so i made an appointment to get tested. so it's been about 20 years since my last allergy test and my guess is blood pressure's gonna be a little high and i'm a little nervous to find out the results. >> what brings you here today? >> well i'd like to find out more about my allergies, this is something i've had all my life and i'd kinda want some answers. >> dr. maria garcia-lloret is the director of allergy research at the ucla medical center. >> tell me which was the worst reaction that you remember. >> i was in ecuador, had some empanadas and i didn't realize they had cooked...that peanut was one of the ingredients. when i puked i swelled up everywhere, and i hadn't really swelled up before. >> the story that you give me, i'm 75% sure that you have a
peanut allergy. >> but it was time to find out for sure if that's not bad enough. >> okay phil i'm going to do some allergy skin testing with you. >> that means being stuck with needles. >> so this is kind of amazing there's hazelnut, chocolate, cinnamon, mustard, garlic. >> needles containing nut extract. >> i see number 50, peanut. >> yes, that's the potential culprit here. >> so i'm 15 minutes away from learning what items on this list i'm actually allergic to. should we start the pricking? >> okay yes, here is the peanut number 50 here... the walnut. >> so it's been about five or ten minutes at this point, i definitely feel something itchy back there so i have a feeling it's going to be that number 50. in all, i was tested for about 10 different things. so that was literally just peanut on my skin and it reacted
like that. >> exactly that's peanut extract and you had quite a reaction there. >> the size of my reaction determines whether i get a confirmed diagnosis. >> the peanut is uh... 24. >> woah that's big. so what's my prognosis here. >> we confirmed what you suspected all along that you have a peanut allergy. but what the skin test can say, all the rest are negative. >> so the test confirms i have a peanut allergy but the problem is, this test isn't always reliable. according to a journal of pediatrics report about 50 to 60% of the time food allergies are misdiagnosed. >> but with cutting edge technology, researchers may have solved this problem. that's where techknow's marita davison picks up the story. >> here in the nadeau lab at stanford university, researchers are developing a novel technique
called a diagnostic allergy test or dat that can screen anyone including newborns for over 90 potential allergens--all from two drops of blood. >> so what makes the dat test superior to the standard blood test? >> the test tells you what you're allergic to, how severe the allergy is, and whether or not you're allergic to other things. >> this breakthrough diagnostic allergy test uses a technique where blood cells are mixed with up to 96 known allergens like bee venom, animal dander, and various foods. >> this is the flow cytometer machine, this is called a cytec. >> experiments done on this machine show researchers how blood cells react to a specific allergen. >> cells express proteins, you can take antibodies that recognize those proteins, they latch on the cell surface and those antibodies have little colors associated with them. you can actually detect those colors. when you want to know whether or not you're allergic to bee stings and whether or not that
bee sting can cause anaphylaxis in you, that's what a perfect test is. >> there's another breakthrough. this dat test can predict food allergies in newborns before the risk of an accidental exposure. >> because up to now, antecedent to know, we have to wait until they're two years old for children to get the best diagnostics. >> i thought it would be nice to know with babies because sometimes babies get milk allergies or egg allergies. >> taking what's learned in the lab plays a critical role at the clinic. >> so we took the smallest possible dose and then we divided it, however many allergens that person had and then we built up from there, and that seemed to work the best. >> we've got like two and a half bites--go ahead eat. >> as of january 2016, stanford's new diagnostic allergy test is still in the experimental phase, but early results show it can identify allergies with 95% accuracy as
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>> grammy award-winning jazz singer cassandra wilson. >> everyone comes into the world with their unique voice. the question is, do you know how to develop it? >> her life, legacy and song-writing secrets. >> tapping into a spirituality inside of the music is very important. >> i lived that character. >> go one-on-one with america's movers and shakers. >> we will be able to see change. >> the sense something is happening even before the symptoms are visible. >> boom, you have five minutes what are you going to do about it? >> 15 year old kylie kozar has a
food allergy with symptoms so severe, they trigger an internal attack. >> this is anaphylactic allergies, it's not just little food allergies anymore, it's not your grandma's food allergies. >> yael kozar is kylie's mother. >> kylie's first er visit was when she was 18 months and three weeks old, and she almost died in my arms rushing her to the hospital. >> ever since then everything changed? >> everything changed. >> most of the times i've reacted to peanuts it has been pretty severe and scary. >> kylie was diagnosed with an airborne anaphylaxis allergy to peanuts. >> there were constant problems, there would be a little dot, that would look like a rash or a hive there, just different gut issues. >> this isn't a normal food allergy. >> if that peanut protein goes anywhere near her face she can suffocate and die right there. >> at the age of seven, after an accidental exposure, kylie
landed in the hospital after having 4 anaphylactic reactions in three days. >> so it's not as simple as injecting an epi pen with her. >> today, kylie doesn't leave the house without an arsenal of protection. >> we are here with three very important people. >> focused on a treatment for kylie, yael started a podcast to bring awareness to the issue and meet experts in the field of food allergies. >> from santa monica this is the anaphylactic allergy podcast. >> we've been telling you about breakthrough treatments at stanford that have been helping patients, but even those would be too dangerous for kylie due to the severity of her reactions. >> later through my advocacy efforts i had found out about dr. li. >> dr. xiu-min lee, began treating kylie for her food allergies in 2014. based at new york's mount sinai medical center, she is a
professor of allergy and immunology. >> with dr. li's treatment and what kylie's part of its already proven effective. >> using traditional chinese medicine, dr. li created a therapy called food allergy herbal formula-2, clinically known as fahf-2. studies show that herbal compounds in fahf-2 reduce i-g-e levels and combat symptoms of peanut induced anaphylaxis. >> what is kylie's daily regimen what does she have to take? >> twice a day kylie takes a certain number of pills. she has a digestive pill. she has a tea pill, and then she has mae wang pills all of these she takes twice a day. >> this, plus a combination of other therapies. in china, these herbs called woo may wahn, are used to treat digestion and intestinal parasites. her doses of the fahf-2 formula arrive like clock work
every month. from her home in california, kylie connects monthly with dr. li via skype. >> hi. >> during my visit, i was able to listen in on one of kylie's skype calls with dr. li. >> kylie, how's your stomach? >> my stomach is really good. i don't have to eliminate anything from my diet to see what's triggering them-- so yeah it's great. >> fahf-2 is currently in advanced clinical trials, being tested as a new botanical drug under the complementary alternative medicine arm of the fda. >> this approach is effective to prevent reactions, next step is that we'll continue to work hard, we'll build up an even stronger tolerance. >> over the span of this process for me i've realized that things are changing and there are impacts that have been made so
i'm pretty confident that this is going to help. >> to eat without without fear -- a dream for anyone who suffers like kylie. the more techknow investigated, the more we found hope. >> what are some of the things you want to do now that you can eat these things? >> eat scrambled egg, and eat pancakes and waffles. >> [laughter] >> scientists still don't know why food allergies are on the rise, but whether it is hi-tech western-style medicine or alternative eastern herbal treatments, the solutions seem to be coming into focus. and that can change lives. just listen to the kids who know. >> i just hope that everyone, every child or adult can get treatment and they don't have to worry about food allergies anymore. >> phil, have you had any close calls with your allergies?
>> tons, it probably happens at least once or twice a year where i accidentally eat something with peanuts. and i have to be that person almost every single time i order something i have to say, does it have peanuts in it, peanut oil, peanut powder, anything and sometimes there's been waiters that have told me that its okay and it doesn't end up being okay. um, thankfully i haven't had to use this guy yet much, but i learned a lot. >> i think its so interesting because this eastern medicine approach can be seen as going back to basics. even western cultures used to drink willow bark tee to get rid of your headaches and now we know the active component is aspirin. it's really interesting to see things come full circle with this approach. >> so many of our medicines come from nature and i think this is just another great example of one we can embrace. >> do you think you'll use any of the eastern medicine treatments? >> i would love to try it and see what works. i tried acupuncture in the past for allergies growing up and i think uh, some of these things can work.
>> you know phil this story was really personal for you, it was really driven home for me as well because i have a newborn, i'm a new mom. and the idea of these food allergies and in particular meeting families whose children are impacted by food allergies, seeing how desperate they are. it shook me, you know, it really shook me to my core. >> you don't want your boy to end up like me, just saying. >> it makes me pay attention in a completely different way now, the world health organization came out with a recent report that said, expose your kids to solids as early as four months and to as many potential allergens. >> you as a biologist especially with this knowledge, is it interesting to watch your son develop and to expose them to know inside what the immune system is doing? >> it really is, being a parent and a biologist, it's almost this clash of values for me because emotionally i'm
really pulled by certain things that we're seeing and wanting to protect him, but yeah the fact that he, that we can have a certain degree of direction in how his immune system develops, i think is a really, it's a really powerful thing. >> arming his biological arsenal. >> yeah! >> i got to say this is particularly enlightening, i learned a lot about myself, i learned a lot about my allergies, and thankfully by the end of this, none of you had to use this on me. that's it for this episode we'll catch you next time right here on techknow. >> dive deep into these stories and go behind the scenes at aljazeera.com/techknow. follow our expert contributors on twitter, facebook, instagram, google+ and more. >> i'm off the coast of hawaii. >> we are on the tipping point of an ecological disaster.