A pilot project has been launched at the Sainte-Justine Hospital hoping to treat and possibly cure children with severe food allergies.

Young patients will take progressive doses of the allergen orally for an extended period of time to desensitize the child or increase their tolerance.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette made the announcement Thursday, saying $782,145 has been earmarked for the three-year pilot project, matching a donation from the ByeBye Allergies Foundation, which has been working to open this oral immunotherapy clinic

"Allergies in children, in addition to seriously affecting their quality of life as well as that of their families, represent a real danger to their health and even their lives,” said Barrette.

In Quebec, 60,000 children are affected by food allergies, three times more than they were ten years ago. About a third of those children are allergic to more than one food.

It is considered the second-most common health problem among Quebec children after tooth decay.

Developed in the United States and until recently unavailable in Canada, oral immunotherapy is proven successful.

The Quebec government believes that 50 per cent of the patients will see their allergy tolerated or even cured after four to five years of treatment – even more in children aged 18 to 24 months who are allergic to peanuts.

One 16-year-old girl testified on Thursday that she has been undergoing this therapy and that is has essentially cured her of all her food allergies.

The oral immunotherapy clinic is expected to take in 225 patients in the first year and 275 in each of the two following years.

“They are selecting the most severe cases. Now, in the next two or three years, clearly the science will be more solid. It is quite solid today, that’s the reason we are entering into that. And we expect that we will be able to spread that technique everywhere. The problem with this technique is it’s not just like taking a pill. They have to be supervised. There has to be a close collaboration with patients and their families, especially if they are young,” he said.