It’s been discovered on a small scale that peanut allergy in children can be successfully treated with peanut protein, however now there is finally solid proof of its effectiveness on a large scale.
This new scientifically proven immunotherapy could leave “peanut-free” schools and kindergartens for the history books.
The comprehensive study, published in The Lancet last month, was successful in the majority of the 99 children who took part at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, U.K.
The children studied, aged 7-16, began consuming tiny amounts of peanut protein in the form of peanut flour. The dose was gradually increased over a period of 4 to 6 months to the point where children reached clinical “desensitisation.”
The trial was carried out for over 5 years, with the team led by Dr. Andrew Clark and Dr. Pamela Ewan finding that 84 percent and 91 percent of the two groups of children treated could eat at least five peanuts a day by the end of treatment — a remarkable improvement considering those suffering from a peanut allergy risk anaphylactic shock or even death if they become accidentally exposed to a peanut. Unlike other childhood food allergies, such as cow’s milk, a peanut allergy rarely goes away.
“Before treatment, children and their parents would check every food label and avoid eating out in restaurants,” said research team leader Dr. Clark. “Now most of the patients in the trial can safely eat at least five whole peanuts. The families involved in this study say that it has changed their lives dramatically.”
Food Allergy Prevalence
Treating food allergies will increasingly become big business. In 2013 it was reported that 5.9 million children in the U.S. have food allergies, equating to 1 out of every 13 children in the classroom and 1 in 10 preschoolers aged 3 to 5 years. In the U.K., where the study was conducted, 1 in 50 children are affected by peanut allergy, and parents are desperate for a widely available treatment to emerge.
The reasons behind the booming prevalence of food allergies is still widely debated. The “hygiene hypothesis,” suggesting that contemporary Western society’s emphasis on sanitation has minimized children’s exposure to bacteria thus resulting in underdeveloped immune systems, is the most popular theory.
The idea that agricultural processes behind peanut farming are potentially toxic is another widely believed hypothesis. Perhaps it’s not the food we’re becoming allergic to, but rather the food product and what is being done to the food we eat?
Manufacturing practices have even led some to vow to never buy peanut butter again.
Clinic Plans in the U.K.
The next step is to make peanut immunotherapy widely available to patients, which will take several years going through the licensing procedures and regulatory authorities. Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) however is planning to open a peanut allergy clinic that would make a range of services, including immunotherapy on a named patient basis, available to all.
Maureen Jenkins, Director of Clinical Services at Allergy U.K. said: “The fantastic results of this study exceed expectation. This is a major step forward in the global quest to manage it.”
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