Peanut allergies affect millions of people—and in its most severe form, can result in death. But a new treatment may give its sufferers tolerance to the allergen.
According to new research, a treatment that was developed years ago appears to be working. Scientists in Australia have carried out preliminary trials involving a drug that contains a mix of probiotics and traces of peanuts. Their research appears in Lancet Child and Adolescent Health and shows promising results.
The researchers observed 56 children with peanut allergies who took the pill every day for a year and a half, and 48 of the kids participated in this follow-up study, which measures long-term outcomes. About four out of five children observed were able to tolerate peanuts for four years after the initial trial—and about 7 in ten children passed a "tolerance challenge" that indicates the immune response to the allergen has shifted. Researchers observed one group of children who took the actual pill, while another group took a placebo so the researchers could measure the effectiveness.
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The research, which was funded by Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the Australian Food Allergy Foundation, represents early research in the field of oral immunotherapy; the long-term effects of it haven't been studied much up until this point.
According to the scientists, the pill reprograms the immune response so those who take it can achieve tolerance. The findings indicate that children were still able to eat peanuts four years after the onset of treatment.
These findings could be game-changing for kids who have restrictive allergies—and while we imagine it won't be immediately available without more testing, it's reassuring to know that a solution could be in the works in the years to come.