Peanut allergies can be scary for everyone involved, from the person with the allergy to the parents of the person with the allergy to all family members and friends. Most people know someone who has a peanut allergy and is well aware of how severe it can be. Peanut allergies can be fatal in those who have a severe case but a new clinical trial is now offering hope to those with the allergy and it might just change everything.
A recent clinical trial that was conducted over the course of a year and aimed at slowly introducing peanut products in minuscule doses to people with peanut allergies between the ages of 4 and 55 and gradually increasing those doses as their tolerance level permitted. The goal of the trial wasn't to eliminate the peanut allergy, but to hopefully reduce the risk of a life threatening reaction should someone with an allergy come in to contact with peanuts.
The majority of the people involved in the study were children, with 496 of the 551 participants ranging between the ages of 4 and 17 years of age. Of the children involved, just over 67% of the participants who received the AR101 oral immunotherapy treatment were able to eat a minimum of 600 mg or more of peanut protein. Compare that to only 5 out of 124 study participants, or just 4%, who received the placebo who were able to do the same. The study showed no effect on the participants who were over the age of 18.
This is exciting news for parents of children with life threatening peanut allergies. The study showed that after receiving the oral immunotherapy treatment those with severe peanut allergies could ingest peanut protein without having a reaction.
"This is not a quick fix, and it doesn't mean people with peanut allergy will be able to eat peanuts whenever they want," Dr. Jay Lieberman, co-author of the study and vice chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Food Allergy Committee, said in a statement. "But it is definitely a breakthrough."
According to the Food Allergy Research and Education, the occurence of peanut or tree nut related allergies has been on the rise over the last two decades or so. Between 1997 and 2008 the rates of these allergies have more than tripled, CBS News reports.
While this treatment won't allow people with peanut allergies to freely eat peanuts and cure them of their allergy, it will allow them to to ingest smaller amounts without potentially deadly results. Many products contain 'trace' amounts of peanuts that people aren't often aware of, and may accidentally ingest without realizing. This oral immunotherapy treatment may help someone who unknowingly eats something that happens to contain peanuts.
The study wasn't without it's side effects however. 20% of the children involved in the study who received the oral immunotherapy withdrew from the trial, with half claiming adverse side effects. Still, the results have many excited at the prospect of giving those living with peanut allergies hope with this trial.
“This is not the cure, but it is a good first step,” Dr. James R. Baker Jr., chief medical officer of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), stated. “We’ve had nothing, nothing to give these poor kids that can keep them from having these reactions and put them in a much more positive outlook on life. It’s just a wonderful thing to have. The fact that the kids were eating the equivalent of a peanut a day pretty much tells you that if they accidentally eat a peanut, they won’t have a life-threatening reaction,” Dr. Baker said.