March 16, 2009

Child peanut allergy treatment promising

A daily dose of peanuts has been a successful therapy for peanut allergies in a select group of children who can eat peanuts daily, U.S. researchers said.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center and Arkansas Children's Hospital said they documented long-term tolerance in children with peanut allergies by the presence of key immunologic changes.

It appears these children have lost their allergies, Dr. Wesley Burks of Duke University said in a statement. This gives other parents and children hope that we'll soon have a safe, effective treatment that will halt allergies to certain foods.

At the start of the study, the 33 study participants couldn't tolerate one-sixth of a peanut, Burks said.

Six months into it, they were ingesting 13 to 15 peanuts before they had a reaction, Burks said.

Duke and Arkansas Children's Hospital researchers said the peanut doses start as small as 1/1000 of a peanut. Eight to 10 months later, the children ingest the equivalent of up to 15 peanuts per day. The children stay on that daily therapy for several years and are monitored closely.

Because the pool of children now off treatment was so small, Burks said it's hard to say whether these children simply outgrew their allergies or if the therapy did something to enhance that outcome. More research is needed, Burks said.

The findings were presented at the American Academy of Asthma and Immunology meeting in Washington.