Researchers have claimed that a skin patch could be helpful in treating a painful chronic condition called eosinophilic oesophagitis (EoE) triggered by milk in children.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

“The study from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) shows great promise for immunotherapy that aims to desensitise children to milk. Our next step would be to launch a much larger study to confirm our results. Currently, there’s no cure for EoE, so this would be the first strategy to treat the underlying cause of the disease,” said study leader Jonathan Spergel, Chief of the Allergy Program at CHOP.

Among 20 children with EoE who wore the skin patch measuring just over an inch long containing trace amounts of milk protein – nine (47 per cent) saw an improvement in their symptoms and normalisation of their biopsies after 11 months. This is the first study to examine how this treatment, called epicutaneous immunotherapy, may help children with milk-induced EoE.

EoE is a food-based disease that causes redness, swelling and itching in the oesophagus when a patient eats food that triggers their reaction. Traditional allergy testing is not helpful. Patients may experience nausea, vomiting, or a burning sensation in the throat. If left untreated, the oesophagus may narrow due to scarring.

Currently, the only ways to manage EoE is to treat the symptoms with off-label topical steroids which may cause growth retardation or to follow a restrictive diet which may be difficult for patients to follow. Children with EoE often have other allergic disorders like asthma, seasonal allergies or eczema.