Scientists are looking into a toothpaste that helps to prevent serious reactions in people with peanut allergies. The researchers have just finished their first human clinical trials on the experimental therapy and so far, so good.
A common way to treat a peanut allergy is oral immunotherapy in which people are given tiny doses of peanut over a prolonged period to desensitize their immune system to the problematic protein.
Running with this well-established idea, scientists from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) have developed a new toothpaste that delivers small amounts of allergenic peanut proteins straight to the mouth while people brush their teeth.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, they gathered 32 adults aged between 18 to 55 years old with an allergy to peanuts. For 48 weeks, the participants either received an escalating dose of peanut toothpaste or a placebo. The team also carried out food tests and used blood tests to study the participant’s “exploratory biomarkers”, which provide a solid indication of how a person’s immune system is responding to treatment.
One of the main points of a phase I clinical trial is to see whether the treatment is safe – and the toothpaste passed this test with flying colors. The therapy proved to be well-tolerated by the study’s guinea pigs and only mild side-effects were reported. Furthermore, the vast majority of participants stuck to the treatment plan, indicating it would be easy and convenient for the wider public to use.
“We noted that 100 percent of those being treated with the toothpaste consistently tolerated the pre-specified protocol highest dose,” Dr William Berger, member of ACAAI member and author of the study, said in a statement.
“No moderate nor severe systemic reactions occurred in active participants. Non-systemic adverse reactions were mostly local (oral itching), mild, and transient. There was 97 percent adherence to treatment with no dropouts due to study medication,” Dr Berger added.
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies, affecting approximately 1 to 2 percent of the US population. It’s caused by an overreaction of the immune system to proteins found in peanuts. The body mistakenly identifies these proteins as harmful substances and drums up a response to defend against them.
This immune response can result in a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including itching, hives, inflammation, difficulty breathing, and in some cases, life-threatening anaphylaxis.
The number of people with peanut allergy has increased three-fold in recent decades, a prominent trend that’s occurred for a variety of reasons. It’s noteworthy that children are at much higher risk of food allergies compared to adults, not least because up to 20 percent of individuals with a peanut allergy will eventually “grow out of it”.
Given the success of their recent clinical trial results, the researchers now hope to see whether their toothpaste treatment works well for kids.
“The results support continued development of this toothpaste in the pediatric population,” said Dr Berger.
The work was recently presented at this year’s American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) conference.