Promising Peanut Allergy Treatment in Development

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March 16th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

If you or a loved one, especially your children, have an allergy to peanuts, you should read the news about a research study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Consortium of Food Allergy Research. It appears the doctors have found a way to significantly decrease and possibly cure peanut allergies using an exposure desensitization method. The method being studied is so effective that children who used to have extreme reactions to even small bit of a peanut can now eat many of them with no allergic reaction.

An estimated 3.3 million Americans suffer from allergies to nuts, including peanuts. The immune system overreacts even to trace quantities of nuts. It can cause anaphylactic shock that can lead to death without immediate treatment.

The study, now underway, is planned to include a total of 400 children followed over five years. So far, five of the children have reached the stage at which they show no more signs of peanut allergy. Others have significantly lessened allergic reactions, making it unlikely they would have serious health problems from exposure to small amounts of peanuts.

Medical centers involved in this peanut allergy study include Duke University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Yale School of Medicine.

The therapy works by exposing the children in the study to minute quantities of peanuts, starting with about 1/1000 of a peanut. Over a period of months, the quantities are boosted. After about 4 months, the children are consuming peanut dosages equivalent to about one peanut. Eventually, this exposure therapy seems to train the immune system to lessen or even stop triggering an allergic reaction to peanuts. Some of the children can even eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

It is not clear if this allergic reduction will persist for life. Presently, most of the study participants are continuing to take daily doses of peanuts. Years of monitoring will be required to understand the long-term impact of the therapy.

In theory, this type of exposure therapy may work for resolving other allergies, too. Dr. Wesley Burks, head of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke, thinks that this research will assist in developing similar therapies for other food allergies in the next few years.

It is important to note that this therapy should be done under medical supervision with preparation to immediately treat anaphylaxis if something goes wrong. This is not something to try at home, at least not yet.

Dr. Burks thinks that this therapy may be available outside of experimental settings in two to three years. It’s not clear if this will work only for children or may also work for adults with peanut allergies. The current study focuses on children.

In the meantime, if you’ve got a child with a peanut allergy, there is increasing awareness and support available for helping such children safely live with the allergy. We’ve included some links to some well-rated books that might be of help to you and your child.

If you’re interested in more information or participating in Duke University clinical trials related to food allergies, particularly peanut, egg and milk, in both children and adults, you can call (919) 668-1333 or send email to [email protected].

Further Reading

Duke University: Tracking Peanut Allergy Onset in Children

ABC News: Could Peanut Allergy Fix Be More Peanuts?
Allergic Kids Seem to Be Helped by Minute Amounts of Peanuts

US News & World Report: How to Control Peanut Allergy in Children

New York Times: Treatment for Peanut Allergies Shows Promise

MSNBC: Risky therapy may cream peanut allergy – 5 allergic kids developed resistance after docs gave them tiny bits of nuts

Possible therapy takes bite out of peanut allergy

Doug Hughes’ blog entries about his son’s peanut allergy and attempts to get him into the Duke peanut desensitization study

Wikipedia: Peanut allergy

Wikipedia: Anaphylaxis

  1. Bumblebee72
    March 16th, 2009 at 14:56 | #1

    I’ve read before that there’s some reason peanut allergies are mostly a US problem. Any idea why?

  2. Sammy & Dean
    March 16th, 2009 at 15:03 | #2

    Maybe it’s from the way they are cooked?

    From Allergies Can Drive You Nuts:

    It’s not your imagination. If it seems like more attention is being paid to peanut and nut allergies, it’s because the incidence is rising in the United States and other Western countries, for reasons that are not understood. Consumption alone doesn’t explain it. In the United States and China, per-capita consumption of peanuts is the same, but China has virtually no peanut allergies. One difference: We eat mostly dry-roasted peanuts, even in peanut butter; the Chinese eat peanuts either boiled or fried. The higher temperatures from dry roasting appear to expose more allergens in the peanuts, Sampson says.

  3. Bumblebee72
    March 16th, 2009 at 15:14 | #3

    There’s supposed to be some Chinese herb that can “cure” peanut allergies. It’s being investigated for a new drug.

    Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
    Tests in mice were successful, and human trials are under way

  4. February 3rd, 2010 at 21:43 | #4

    I just wanted to say that I found your site via Goolge and I am glad I did. Keep up the good work and I will make sure to bookmark you for when I have more free time away from the books. Thanks again!

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