Treatment for Peanut Allergies Shows Promise for Long-term Tolerance

March 16, 2009

(ChattahBox) — A common sense approach of very small medically supervised daily dose of peanuts may help children with peanut allergies greatly increase their tolerance to the food. The new studies raise the possibility of a cure for this potentially life-threatening condition that effects 3.3 million people who are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts. Even minor exposure can set off a reaction in some, and while drugs can be used to treat an allergic reaction, it must be administered in time. Nearly half of the 150 deaths attributed to food allergies each year in the United States are caused by peanut allergies, according to Duke University. Only 20% of children with peanut allergies outgrow them. The rest must stay vigilant, bringing their own food to parties and avoiding restaurants if they can’t be sure the menu is “peanut-safe.” An allergic response usually strikes within minutes of exposure.

The new treatment  presented on Sunday at a meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Washington, used doses of peanuts that start as small as one-thousandth of a peanut and eventually increase to about 15 peanuts a day. In a pilot study at Duke University and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, 33 children with documented peanut allergy have received the daily therapy, which is given as a powder sprinkled on food. Most of the children are tolerating the therapy without developing allergic reactions,but four children dropped out because they could not tolerate the treatment. Five others stopped the treatment after two and a half years because they could now tolerate peanuts in their regular diet.

Dr. Wesley Burks, the chief of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, who helped conduct the research, suggests that a treatment for peanut allergy may be developed in two or three years. Far more study is needed before the treatment can be used outside of a research setting, Dr. Burks said.

Researchers in Britain have reported similar results in small studies in which children were given daily peanut doses. The Consortium of Food Allergy Research, which includes five major research centers in the United States and is financed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is conducting similar treatment studies for both egg and peanut allergies.

Dr. Burks said that the children in the studies were under a high level of medical supervision, and that parents should not try the approach on their own.

Source: BreakThroughDigest Medical News


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