Mustafa Özçam, PhD: Unraveling the Link between Microbiome Composition and Food Allergies

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“These findings are exciting for us, and our overarching goal is to develop microbial biotherapeutics to treat food allergies," Mustafa Özçam says in an interview with HCPLive.

Mustafa Özçam, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Lynch Lab, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, has found his way back to microbiome studies and clinical research.

Currently, he's exploring how microbiome composition is associated with food allergies, specifically, how allergic food proteins are metabolized by the microbiome in different individuals and whether it could be related to the function of the microbiome or the ability to digest and intake these proteins and metabolites.

Recently, he presented data at the the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) 2023 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX which demonstrated some interesting findings regarding peanut oral immunotherapy (POIT).

“We found that children who responded to peanut oral immunotherapy had lower bacterial diversity at baseline, while non-responders had a distinct gut microbiome composition throughout the trial,” Özçam explained. “This suggests that gut microbiome composition is associated with peanut oral immunotherapy outcomes.”

The team is following up on findings by performing ex vivo experiments to test the hypotheses.

“We are investigating how peanuts are digested by children undergoing treatment,” he said. “After being digested by both stomach and microbial enzymes, we do not know what is reaching the small intestine in different children. This is something that we are interested in and will be investigating further.”

The randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study achieved the primary endpoints of desensitization (D+) in 71% or desensitization and remission (D+R+) in 21% of children treated with peanut oral immunotherapy (POIT). These results indicated that variance in pre-treatment fecal microbiota composition, microbial gene content, and metabolism related to desensitization and remission outcomes.

“These findings are exciting for us, and our overarching goal is to develop microbial biotherapeutics to treat food allergies and increase the success rate of peanut oral immunotherapies as a combination therapy,” Özçam said.