Anaphylactic Food Allergy: The Role of Adjuvants and Injection

May 15, 2017

This is Food Allergy Awareness Week. Here at TMR, we wish to highlight one aspect of food allergy around which there is little awareness: how food allergies can be created with the use of aluminum adjuvants.

Life-threatening food allergy, especially to peanut, is a multi-million-dollar industry, with EpiPens costing an exorbitant amount. The race to find a cure through peanut vaccines and peanut patches is extremely lucrative, thus the need for a good sample of anaphylactic animals to experiment on in order to perfect these treatments. Approximately 1 in 13 children has life-threatening food allergies, or about two children in every classroom. Yet, biochemists will tell you it’s very difficult to overcome the natural barriers that prevent allergy. Something must happen to the immune system to push it into overdrive.

On the journey to life-threatening allergy there are a few winding paths, but only one rapid, busy highway: injection. Labs need to make animals anaphylactic to a range of foods rapidly and efficiently, and while it is possible to do so by repeated feeding of the allergen along with an adjuvant, as you can tell from this study, even a single injection makes the process much faster and more efficient.

In a sad twist of fate, one allergy mom, who used to make lab rats allergic during her pre-mom career as a scientist, discusses how they made them anaphylactic in the following interview:

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I studied Biological Sciences in college and was pre-med. After being accepted into two medical schools, I took some time to decide if medicine was really what I wanted to do (it wasn’t). I ended up working in a research lab straight out of college while trying to figure out my next steps. The lab was in the Clinical Immunology department of a prestigious university medical school. I worked there for two years before going back to school to study Clinical Laboratory Sciences for a second degree. I received my second bachelor’s degree followed by my certification in Medical Laboratory Sciences. After which, I proceeded to work in the clinical laboratory (hematology, chemistry, and urinalysis) of a very large county hospital for seven years. After this time, I left my job to care for my two children with autism and complex medical issues.


What did you specifically do in the lab?

In the research lab, my job title was Medical Research Technician and later Clinical Study Coordinator. As a Medical Research Technician, I conducted food allergy research on laboratory mice and performed lab analysis on the specimens that we later collected from the mice. The goal of this research was to study the process of allergen sensitization in the mouse model of human food allergy. Basically, we were trying to show how to create a food allergy in a mouse. Step one was to create the allergy and step two was to prove that we created it. As a Clinical Study Coordinator, I became more involved in the paperwork and grant-writing procedures, IRB approvals, etc. that go into running a research study through a university.

Can you outline the science behind making lab animals anaphylactic?

Well, the part of the research that I was involved in did not technically create anaphylaxis in mice. We were trying to establish (or in some cases duplicate a study) the ideal mouse model for studying food allergy, so that that mouse model could then go on to be manipulated to study different aspects of food allergy and anaphylaxis. For the two years that I was in the research lab, we were studying that “sensitization” piece. How do we make mice (and similarly, humans) become SENSITIZED to a food allergen? What we would do was expose groups of mice to different concentrations of an allergenic food extract (e.g., peanut, walnut, cashew, shrimp) at the same time as an adjuvant (something to stimulate an immune response in the mice—e.g., alum, aluminum hydroxide, pertussis toxin, cholera toxin). We would repeat this exposure several times over the course of a set time (e.g., six weeks) and then collect the blood of the animals for analysis. We were able to show that by exposing the animals to the food allergen at the same time as the adjuvants, we were effectively creating an IgE antibody response to food allergens in the mice. Further study down the road was to prove that the mice had truly become anaphylactic to the allergen (by challenging the food in a prior-sensitized mouse), but I was not involved in that research because I had moved on at that point. (There are studies that go on to show the mouse’s anaphylactic response; I just wasn’t involved in that personally.)


Can you also explain this in the simplest terms possible for those who feel intimidated by science?

In basic terms, we were able to create an allergy by “feeding” the mice a food allergen at the same time as a toxin (known as an adjuvant—a toxin chosen because of its ability to stimulate an immune response). We would repeat the process over several weeks and then analyze the mouse’s blood to show that we created the food-specific antibody necessary for anaphylaxis.


How is aluminum used in the lab? And what other medical products are aluminum present in?

We used both alum and aluminum hydroxide as adjuvants in these mouse model studies. When we “fed” the mouse the food allergen alongside the toxin, the mouse’s immune system would respond strongly to the toxin and simultaneously make antibodies to the food allergens. Some studies (both in our lab before I worked there and in other labs) have studied the same adjuvants but using intraperitoneal injection instead of oral gavage which is the method we used. Another medical product that can contain aluminum is a vaccine. Aluminum is used as the adjuvant in several childhood vaccines to increase the immune response to the vaccine’s pathogenic component. According to, “Aluminum is present in U.S. childhood vaccines that prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP, Tdap), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), human papillomavirus (HPV) and pneumococcus infection.”

Adjuvants | Vaccine Safety | CDC

Adjuvants are added to vaccines to strengthen the body’s immune response to the vaccine. Vaccines with adjuvants are tested and monitored for safety.


1) For those who say rats and humans are not similar:  “. . . shown remarkable consistency between murine and human samples.”

2)  For those who say their child did not develop food allergy from vaccination, or were never vaccinated: Oral sensitization is far less consistent and effective: “the model of oral sensitization without an adjuvant requires a long process of sensitization (six weeks) and, although it has been used in several studies [3336], success after oral sensitization was not always achieved in a high percentage of rats [37] and/or the sensitization does not always induce the synthesis of IgE antibodies.”

3) For those who say “But why doesn’t this happen to every child/person who receives vaccines/injections?”: “Although BN rats are high IgE responders, similar to atopic humans, experimental procedures in this rat strain to induce oral sensitization without adjuvant are time-consuming and are not always able to generate a reproducible and effective FA model [20,30,3739].”  so, even in high antibody responders, the adjuvant is what is really needed to kick the immune system into overdrive.

Quoted passages are from “Development and Characterization of an Effective Food Allergy Model in Brown Norway Rats.” ]

~ The AllergyWhisperer

The AllergyWhisperer is an allergy parent who understands the immune system a little too well and prays for the day that this epidemic ends.

For more about allergy, click here.

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18 Responses to Anaphylactic Food Allergy: The Role of Adjuvants and Injection

  1. Kelly Vardakas says:

    I have two more questions.

    I am nursing. Do you recommend continuing to eat the foods she is allergic to to desensitize her immune system, or avoid the foods she is allergic to (milk, eggs, soy, nuts) completely so her gut can heal? Her only symptom is mild eczema, she does not get hives from what I have been eating even though she is allergic. Just the itching.

    Also, do you recommend heavy metal testing to see what aluminum levels are? Is there a detox protocol you recommend for both of us, or do I have to wait until she is completely weaned? She is 10 months.

    • allergywhisperer says:

      These are really good questions, are you in any of the allergy groups in FB? It might be better to post these questions there, or to seek advice from a well-educated integrated health specialist. You might also need to look at things like histamine levels. While I understand the how, healing the how when it comes to allergy is very, very complex and challenging.

  2. Ruth says:

    Hi AllergyWhisperer, I blog as Ruth for TMR. I’m doing a research project you would be interested in and I’m looking for a collaborator with your expertise. could you email me so I can get you my proposal and you can decide if you want to work together?

  3. Andrea Mercier says:

    My son doesn’t have a severe phenol reaction but somewhat of a milder red ear reaction. I switched to a different species of peanut and controlled for inflammation and his ears did not turn red. I always just occasionally give the allergen anyway because he enjoys the peanuts and he wasn’t anaphylactic. I wonder if his body will ever learn to adapt to them or has learned to respond appropriately. I am seeing less red ears. I do use a lot of supplementation to help his body re-learn.

    • allergywhisperer says:

      I suppose if your son was never anaphylactic and you are doing this under the guidance of a health professional it sounds like it is working? The challenge with your story for those of us with anaphylactic children is that people expect us to be doing the same with our anaphylactic kiddos. I believe the jury is still out on oral immunotherapy (which is what you are describing). If something is poison to the body because it has antibodies in the blood, than are we just teaching the body to accept poison? Sometimes people end up with mast cell disorders through oral immunotherapy (think of those cells in the digestive track getting inflamed because of that “poison” entering the body). Interesting comment though, thank you.

      • Lisa says:

        Soooo do allergy shots usually contain aluminum? Just switched back from drops to shots and my immune system has been out to lunch a little. I had assumed it was due to testing, which requires no antihistamines for at least a week prior, the more dilute serum they require I start at until I work my way up in shot strength, now I wonder what’s actually in the mixture!! Can’t win for losing.

  4. Kelly Vardakas says:

    My 10 month old, unvaccinated daughter has allergies to eggs, nuts, milk, and soy. I had to go on Zoloft at 12 weeks in my pregnancy for moderate to severe depression and panic attacks. The doctors tell me there is no correlation, but my food allergies developed after going on Zoloft many years ago. Can there be a correlation?

    • allergywhisperer says:

      Did you watch the clip from Age of Aluminum? I wonder if there is aluminum in zoloft; I would also wonder if your gut was altered from zoloft–anything that ramps up your immune system whilst causing a leaky gut (think of those food proteins getting into the blood stream and the body creating antibodies to something that shouldn’t be there) can play a part. Very interesting about Zoloft! Nothing would surprise me at this point. Maybe you could find out if there is aluminum in that med and follow up with us? Thank you for the interesting comment.

  5. Meredith says:

    So, the food proteins that are in childhood vaccines (egg protein, msg, bovine serum albumin, casein, etc.) along with the aluminum adjuvant could potentially be the cause for the food allergy epidemic in this country? I feel like that is what the article is implying without actually stating it.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Bingo. There is no question that the aluminum adjuvant in combination with food proteins in the vaccines IS causing allergies; the question is simply how many of them?

      • Meredith says:

        This was briefly mentioned in The Truth About Vaccines Docu-series that recently aired. I don’t understand why food proteins need to be in vaccines at all. It’s very troubling as a mother to a son with multiple food allergies. If this is the case, it simply cannot continue.

      • ProfessorTMR says:

        The reason they appear in the vaccines is because all the vaccine antigens, viruses or bacteria, must be grown in tissue cultures. These cultures have to come from some kind of animal cell. Back when the polio vaccine was first invented, monkey kidneys were used. The culture media used today vary widely and include cells from cows, chickens, soybeans, and human fetuses. The cells in the culture medium cannot be completely filtered from the resulting vaccine. We might consider them “contaminants,” but the companies consider them “expected.” In addition, vaccines do not require “inactive” ingredients that are generally recognized as safe (“GRAS”) to be disclosed. These ingredients COULD conceivably be vegetable oils that used as “stabilizers.” Those oils also cannot be purified to remove ALL proteins either.

    • allergywhisperer says:

      Also, when asked, the pharma companies said that they don’t really test too much for food proteins in the batches–so another reason why some children might be sensitized and not others is this irregularity. Imagine a pot of chicken noodle soup and it being spooned into bowls–who gets the noodles? Root problem is still the lack of liability, if you review the literature you can see pre1986 that they really took the possibility of sensitisation seriously. Now it’s just win-win: lifelong medical consumers of epi-pen and other products like peanut patches, all because of a product with no liability. How clever!

  6. Kim says:

    Excellent explanation. Humans can become sensitized to whatever protein they ingest or inhale in proximity to receiving injected adjuvants. There’s nothing inherently evil about peanuts or any of the other top 7 U.S. allergens. They are just commonly eaten foods. It only makes sense that the top allergens differ by country. The formula: protein+injected adjuvant+repeated exposure over time=allergy.

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