A new project has shown how a one-off injection can halt peanut allergies for up to six weeks.
Scientists from Stanford University School of Medicine carried out a small pilot study involving an injectable antibody treatment that allows people with severe peanut allergies to eat a peanut with no trouble at least two weeks later.
Allergies are simply a misguided overreaction by the body’s immune system. We typically experience an immune response to a foreign substance or pathogen that could cause harm to the body. With allergies, however, the response is fired up to substances that aren’t actually harmful to your body, such as the protein in peanuts, a rogue piece of pollen, or pet hair.
The only currently available treatment, oral immunotherapy, involves the patient eating minuscule but escalating doses of the allergen over the course of months, eventually desensitizing their immune system to the substance in question.
The new treatment takes a much more direct approach. Reported in JCI Insight, the treatment – called etokimab – works to interfere with an immune-signaling molecule known as interleukin-33 which triggers the chain of events that amount to a full-blown immune system response.
What’s best, and quite surprising, is how long the treatment lasts. The double-blind study involved 20 participants with severe peanut allergies – 15 received a single etokimab injection and five were given a placebo. Up to 15 days later, 73 percent of the etokimab group was able to eat a nut’s worth of peanut protein without any allergic reaction. By day 45, 57 percent of them were able to.
The small study only involved 20 participants, but its success holds real hope for the 32 million Americans who suffer from potentially deadly food allergies. Next up, the researchers are looking to carry out another study with more participants and take a deeper look at the mechanisms involved.
Perhaps most promising of all, the treatment could theoretically be used to protect against a whole host of allergens, not just peanuts.
“What’s great about this treatment as an option for food allergies is that people did not have to eat the food to get desensitized,” Nadeau added. “Although this is still in the experimental stages, we’re delivering on the hope of testing a drug that won’t be for one food allergy but for many, and for other allergic diseases, too.”
Cases of food allergies, along with eczema and hay fever, have risen rapidly in the developed world over the past few decades. There are thought to be a number of explanations for this, ranging from a decreased exposure to pathogens to a change in diet. Regardless, despite this increase, allergies remain surrounded by myth and misinformation. Here are some common myths about allergies that you should be aware of.