February 20, 2009
New Study Shows Promise For Treating Peanut Allergies
A study on peanut allergies showed that children given small daily doses of peanut flour were able to build up a tolerance to the nuts, suggesting it may be possible to treat the potentially deadly condition, Reuters reported.
Researchers at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge said on Friday the study aimed to slowly build immunity to peanuts in people with the common allergy.
Andy Clark, who led the research published in the journal Allergy, said an allergic reaction could lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock for all the participants involved in the study.
"But now we've got them to the point where they can safely eat at least 10 whole peanuts," he said.
"It's not a permanent cure, but as long as they go on taking a daily dose they should maintain their tolerance."
Food allergies occur when the body's immune system mistakenly sees compounds from the foods as invaders and creates antibodies to fight them.
Peanut allergies, however, seem to be occurring more frequently in people all over the world, and scientists are not entirely sure why.
There is currently no cure and people with the condition must avoid even the tiniest amount of food containing the nut.
The researchers said previous attempts to gradually build people's immunity to nuts failed after producing serious side effects, possibly because the trials involved injections rather than the more gentle doses used by the Cambridge team.
The children involved in the study were first given a five-milligram serving of peanut flour. Over six months, the amounts were slowly increased until the volunteers trained their bodies to tolerate at least 800 milligrams, equivalent to five whole peanuts.
The first trial tested four children and now 18 young people aged 7 to 17 are following the program.
Eventually, adults with severe peanut allergies may also go on the program, researchers said.
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