New Treatment Shows Promise Against Peanut Allergy
Peanut allergies can lead to severe reactions like anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. 
Peanut allergies can lead to severe reactions like anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. (Photo: iStock)

New Treatment Shows Promise Against Peanut Allergy

In a first, an oral immunotherapy drug derived from peanut protein could help build tolerance and eliminate potentially deadly reactions in children and adolescents with severe peanut allergies.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that controlled ingestion of the medication, called AR101, derived from peanut protein, could build tolerance as well as reduce severe allergy symptoms.

However, according to Christina Ciaccio, Associate Professor from the University of Chicago in the US, the drug "is not a quick fix, and it doesn't mean people with peanut allergy will be able to eat peanuts whenever they want". But it is definitely a breakthrough and "results of this landmark trial are likely to lead to the first FDA-approved treatment for food allergy in 2019".

As a result, people who receive and are able to tolerate this treatment should be protected from accidental exposures, the researchers noted, adding that once someone stops the treatment, there is no longer a protective effect.

For the study, the researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) in the US included 496 participants aged from four to 55 years, most were four to 17 year olds, and all had peanut allergy.

One third of the participants were given a placebo, while the remaining two-thirds were given peanut protein powder as part of an oral food challenge (OFC) in increasing amounts until reaching the "maintenance dose" -- equivalent of one peanut daily.

Compared to the placebo group, participants who took AR101 had less severe allergy symptoms. Furthermore, two-thirds of the people were able to tolerate the equivalent of two peanuts per day after nine to 12 months of treatment, and half the patients tolerated the equivalent of four peanuts.

According to Scientific India, food allergies in India have been found to cause approximately 30,000 emergency cases, 100 to 200 deaths per year and up to 3 million cases have been reported from peanut allergy alone.

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