Australian researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute might have found a successful and low-risk method to cure children born with a peanut allergy. Two-thirds of the children that received the treatment have become desensitized to peanuts and this has lasted up to four years after the treatment.
The study, published in the journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, describes the effect of the probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy (PPOIT) method. Immunity building by exposure to the allergen is nothing new, but the team combined increasing amounts of peanut protein with the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus. Sixty-two kids had to take this treatment daily for 18 months, half of them taking the probiotic and peanuts and the other half given the probiotic and a placebo.
At the end of the 18 months, 80 percent of the participants had developed a tolerance to peanuts. The new study is a follow-up four years later to see how and what lasting effects the treatment has had.
Forty-eight children were eligible, 24 from the PPOIT group and 24 from the control group. Sixteen children from the first group and one from the control group have been able to eat peanuts ever since, while four PPOIT-treated participants and six placebo kids, who all had a tolerance at the end of the study, have since then had allergic reactions. None has reported any anaphylaxis, a life-threating allergic reaction. And that is truly exciting because peanuts are the number one cause of anaphylaxis-related deaths.
“This treatment has the potential to help people with all kinds of food allergies, not just peanuts. Eventually, we want this treatment to be available to everyone,” senior author Professor Mimi Tang stated on the research web page.
Allergies are caused by the body's immune system being hypersensitive to certain environmental stimuli. The severity of allergies varies significantly among people and ages, and it can go from mild seasonal annoyance to life-debilitating or even death.
Worldwide, 250 million people are affected by peanut allergies, with an increase of 350 percent over the last 20 years. Treatments like this could improve the quality of life for a large number of people.