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Gut barrier dysfunction in food allergy

Heyman, Martine

European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: December 2005 - Volume 17 - Issue 12 - p 1279-1285
Review in Depth

Intestinal permeability tests used in the diagnosis of allergic diseases in response to oral food challenge have led to the conclusion that constitutive defects of the intestinal barrier are not the primary cause of allergic diseases. However, perturbation of environmental factors (infection, stress), by increasing intestinal permeability and enhancing danger signals, may favour food allergy in susceptible individuals. The mechanisms of enhanced permeability to specific and bystander antigens have been delineated as well as the molecular events involved in the sequential phases of allergic reactions. Intestinal absorption of food antigens and immune responses are mutually dependent, and luminal (environmental) and serosal (intrinsic) factors synergize to maintain a self-perpetuating cycle in which antigens penetrate the mucosa and induce allergic inflammation.

Faculté de Médecine Necker-Enfants Malades, Paris, France

Correspondence to Dr Martine Heyman, INSERM EMI0212, Faculté de Médecine Necker-Enfants Malades, 156 rue de Vaugirard, 75730 Paris, France.

Tel: +33 1 40 61 56 33; fax: +33 1 40 61 56 38;


Received 24 May 2005 Accepted 31 August 2005

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.