March 16, 2009

Trial Study Shows Promise In Treating Peanut Allergies

U.S. doctors reported on Sunday that some children may be free from peanut allergies if they eat a tiny crumb of peanut every day for weeks, according to Reuters.

The findings provide a glimmer of hope to the thousands of people with the specific food allergy; however, the treatment is considered too dangerous to try on children with the most severe and life-threatening peanut allergies.

Experts are calling it the first evidence that life-threatening peanut allergies may one day be cured completely.

Five children show no signs of the remaining allergy during immune system tests, and others can withstand amounts that once would have left them wheezing or worse.

The study gave groups of children almost microscopic doses of peanut daily and watched not only their symptoms but also their blood for signs of allergic reaction.

Research teams from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina and Arkansas Children's Hospital said that 9 of the 33 children in the study have been able to tolerate the treatment for more than two years and four appear to be allergy-free.

Dr. Wesley Burks of Duke said the participants in the study couldn't tolerate one-sixth of a peanut at first.

"Six months into it, they were ingesting 13 to 15 peanuts before they had a reaction," he added.

The team said during a meeting in Washington of the American Academy of Asthma and Immunology that the current study was the first time the method had been shown to help someone with a food allergy become tolerant to the food.

"This gives other parents and children hope that we'll soon have a safe, effective treatment that will halt allergies to certain foods," Burks said.

More rigorous research is under way to confirm the pilot study.

Around 4 million Americans have food allergies, with the most common stemming from tree nuts and peanuts, the AAAI estimates. About 150 people die in the United States each year from food allergies, half from peanuts.

Experts say there's no way to avoid a reaction other than avoiding peanuts, as allergy shots are too risky for food allergies.


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