Researchers from Duke University Medical Center and Arkansas Children's Hospital are one step closer to conquering deadly peanut allergies.
The experimental treatment involved medically supervised exposure to increasing amounts of peanut flour intended to gradually build up tolerance. Follow up blood tests showed the immune system begins to ignore the peanut flour, rather than attacking it.
For the study, 33 children with documented peanut allergy were given the lowest dose of peanut flour they could tolerate without provoking a reaction. In most cases one 1/1,000th of a peanut, says Dr. Wesley Burks, MD, chief pediatric allergist at Duke University.
Overall, most of the children tolerated therapy without developing an allergic reaction. Five stopped treatment after two years because they were able to tolerate peanuts in their regular diet. And four children dropped out of the study because they were unable to tolerate treatment.
In a related study, 12 children were randomly assigned the treatment while 6 were given placebo powder. After ten months, the children underwent medically supervised tests exposing them to peanuts. In the placebo group, the children developed symptoms after ingesting the equivalent of one and a half peanuts. While in the treatment group, 15 peanuts were tolerated without symptoms.
Dr. Burks cautions that the treatment is experimental and shouldn't be tried outside a research study in which subjects are closely monitored by medical professionals.
Nearly 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies, of which about 2.2 million of them are children. Only twenty percent of children outgrow their allergy to peanuts.
An estimated 3.3 million people are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts. While medications, such as antihistamines can be used to treat an allergic reaction, they are not sufficient to treat severe, life-threatening reactions.
A trace amount of peanut in an allergic indvidual can provoke minor irritation to a life-threatening reaction within minutes of exposure. In fact, about half of the 150 deaths attributed to food allergies each year are caused by peanut allergies.
The findings were presented at the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology meeting, in Washington, on Sunday.
On a slightly different, but related note, IB Partner, Steve Lombardi, has an informative post titled School Safety: Peanut Treats and Anaphylaxis Shock - what you as a parent should do to protect yourself and your child from the risks of allergies with other students. #