For a child with peanut allergy, there may be hope on the horizon. A British study has yielded some promising results that show eating small amounts of peanut protein and gradually consuming more could be an effective therapy for a child with peanut allergy.
The study, published Thursday in The Lancet, had 99 children, ages seven to 16, with peanut allergies, start out consuming small amounts of peanut flour and gradually increasing their intake over a six-month period. Researchers at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge used this protocol to show children’s immune systems can develop a tolerance for peanuts over a gradual amount of time. By the end of six months, more than 80 percent of the children were able to eat up to five peanuts at one time. What’s more, they were able to be less fastidious about nutrition labels and to go out to eat without developing an allergic reaction.
Although happy with their results, the Cambridge researchers are quick to point out that people with peanut allergies should not try this at home as this is something best handled by medical personnel. This is the first study of its kind, and more clinical trials need to be conducted with larger populations. But these initial positive results are a good start.
Another concern about the outcome of this trial is how long the benefits of peanut allergy therapy would last. In another small study conducted in the United States, the therapy lasted four years. The goal is not to eradicate peanut allergy but to help those with peanut allergy to avoid severe and fatal reactions as a result of peanut exposure.
There is also a concern about side effects of this legume allergy therapy. Even if a child from this study does not have a reaction to peanuts now, what about the long-term effects of exposure to peanuts? This is another concern of doctors. What’s more, people with peanut allergy are usually allergic to other nuts.
Food allergy is a costly expense. In the United States, four to six percent of children have food hypersensitivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s on the rise as well, but the reasons are unknown. One theory is that children may develop food allergies if they’re not exposed to peanuts from an early age. Food allergies cost about $25 billion a year so there’s plenty of incentive to develop a treatment, if not a cure, for food allergies. A few billion dollars go toward emergency treatments alone for allergic reactions.
Right now, those with peanut allergies are destined for a lifetime of being hyper aware of every single nutrition label to check for any ingredients indicating peanuts. Some labels, even if the food is not made with peanuts, may warn the food was produced in a facility with soy or peanuts. This, too, is dangerous for someone with a peanut allergy as even traces of peanuts can set off a dangerous allergic reaction, which is a source of great anxiety. Peanut allergy is the most common of fatal allergies, but this new study gives hope for an effective therapy for peanut allergy.
By Juana Poareo