For parents who have children who has peanut allergy, it is like living in constant fear that your child might be endangered by an accidental exposure to the allergen. Thus, any news of a treatment that can undo the allergic reaction is very welcome. Below is more of the good news.
On the end of January this year, The Lancet published the results of a large clinical trial which confirms the findings of smaller studies in the past. It proves that oral immunotherapy, or the ingestion of tiny and increasing amounts of peanuts overtime can desensitize the individuals who are allergic to peanuts.
As many of you know, peanuts is one of the leading causes of allergic reactions related to food, with an estimate of 400,000 school aged children having this allergy in the US alone as cited by American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Symptoms may occur even with the slightest contact with any peanut protein, which is why it is a primary source of anxiety for parents or individuals who have this allergy, as cross-contamination, or peanut protein being present in other food items has a high probability.
Though not a cure, the new results published by The Lancet shows very positive findings although further research is still needed. Just the ability to tolerate peanuts without having to go through a full-blown allergic reaction is a big relief for those who constantly worry of being accidentally exposed to food items which may have trace amounts of peanuts.
How Does it Work?
In The Lancet study which involves 99 children ages 7-16, the children were divided into two groups, 49 were assigned randomly to oral peanut immunotherapy and 50 were placed in the control group. Over a period of 26 weeks, the group of 49 children were given a few pieces of peanuts daily. 84% of them can tolerate up to 5 pieces. At the end of the first phase of the study, researchers have determined that a huge majority of the children who received the daily oral peanut immunotherapy was able to tolerate up to 10 peanuts with no allergic reaction. A vast difference to the control group in which all of the children had a reaction.
For the second phase of the study, the control group who received the oral immunotherapy as well. The results is largely the same, but with them just having a lower tolerance as compared to the children who had been taking the therapy longer.
This shows that the immunotherapy works better with longer constant exposure to the allergen. If the children are given peanuts for up to two years, the more they can tolerate being exposed to peanuts.
What if the kid forgot to eat the daily peanuts?
The researchers expect the children to eat small amounts of peanuts daily for as long as they want to maintain the ability of being able to tolerate it. However, researchers at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford University School of Medicine wanted to see if there was a means to figure out whether some patients could manage without doing that.
To maintain desensitization after experiments that involve oral immunotherapy, patients are often asked to continue eating peanuts on a daily basis for the rest of their lives. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford however, wanted to see if there was a way to for other patients to manage without doing the daily dosing.
Their study showed some genetic or DNA change for the children involved in their study which suggests that in the future, a blood test could be developed to see if a certain individual has responded to the immunotherapy or has become desensitized to peanuts.
Even though the study by The Lancet does have a positive result, it is strongly recommended that for any child who might have an allergy, parents must consult an allergist. Do not attempt to feed an allergy inducing food to an individual at home.