Could a Skin Patch Help Ease Peanut Allergies?

A new study looked at how a skin patch that delivers small amounts of peanut protein could help people with peanut allergies build a tolerance to the allergen.

Peanut allergies are no joke. For people with severe peanut allergies, just being in the same room with peanuts can cause them to break out in hives or even experience anaphylaxis. Everyday activities, like a plane ride or going out to eat, are potentially life-threatening. And 50 million Americans currently live with peanut allergies.

How the Peanut Patch Works

New research, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, may give hope to peanut allergy sufferers. Patients in the long-term, double-blind, controlled study wore a skin patch that contained a tiny amount of peanut protein. They found that patients who wore the peanut patch increased their tolerance to peanuts during the first 52 weeks of the study.

When the patch is on the skin, your body absorbs the peanut protein, but only superficially. The allergens don’t pass through the skin into the bloodstream, which is why the risk of anaphylaxis is so low. There is risk right after a patient applies the patch, since they may get some of the allergen on their fingers. If the patient then put her hands in her mouth, for example, it could cause a serious reaction.

The technique is called epicutaneous immunotherapy, an allergy treatment developed by DBV Technologies. Their ViaSkin patch—the one tested in this study—is also showing some promise for people with dairy and egg allergies. DBV Technologies is working on further applications for ViaSkin. The company website lists allergies to shellfish and tree nuts as well as eczema, celiac disease, type I diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

The Results

The peanut patch study looked at peanut allergy sufferers aged four through 25. Researchers tested two different ViaSkin patches: one with a higher amount of peanut protein than the other. The control group’s patch contained no peanut protein.

Patients with the higher-dose patch responded slightly better to the treatment, and children aged four to 11 had the best response to the patch. The researchers considered a tenfold increase in peanut tolerance a success.

At the end of the trial’s first year, 46 percent of the lower-dose group were 10 times more tolerant to peanut allergens. In the higher-dose group, 48 percent raised their tolerance 10 times. There was a 12 percent success rate in the placebo group, possibly because some people outgrow peanut allergies.

Many participants did have mild, topical reaction to the ViaSkin patch. About 80 percent developed a rash where the patch was in contact with their skin or other mild reactions. There was one teenager who had to leave the study for a more serious reaction.

Peanut Allergies: It’s Complicated

Our understanding of peanut allergies is in flux right now. For many years, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended holding off on introducing peanuts to children until they turned one.  Last year, they changed their recommendation in light of evidence that introducing peanuts earlier may actually help kids avoid developing a peanut allergy. There are some cases where parents should still delay introducing peanuts, though, so talk to your pediatrician first.

Dr. Jennifer Shih from Emory University School of Medicine cautioned that while the ViaSkin patch is good news for peanut allergy sufferers, they won’t be eating PB&Js anytime soon. Dr. Shih told CNN, “This (patch) is not so that somebody can eat a bunch of Reese’s for Halloween.” Instead, patch users would be ”hopefully protected from accidental exposure.”

The ViaSkin patch is not a cure for peanut allergies, but it might make that next plane ride a little bit less scary.

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Image Credit: Images via Thinkstock.

49 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

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Joanne p.
Joanne p2 years ago

ty

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Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Take this warning and stop devastating our environment

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Margie FOURIE
Margie F2 years ago

Thank you

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney2 years ago

Would be so great for many Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney2 years ago

Fantastic news. Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney2 years ago

Very interesting information Thank you for caring and sharing

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bob Petermann
bob P2 years ago

Why couldn't a patch be used instead of a $600 epi pen, thanks

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