Having a peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Parents of children with peanut allergies will be interested in the results of a recent clinical trial performed in the U.K. and published in the Lancet. It should be kept in mind that the treatment is still only in the investigative stages.
Researchers from Cambridge University Hospital experimented with oral immunotherapy (OIT) to try and reduce peanut allergies in a group of children aged 6-17.
The peanut treatment group contained 49 children and 50 children were placed in the control group, which did not receive treatment. Both groups were randomly assigned.
Peanut oral immunotherapy was given to the treatment group in the form of peanut protein flour, in gradually increasing doses from 2 mg to 800 mg/day.
The trial was performed in two phases with the first phase lasting six months. At the end of the first phase, “84% of the active group tolerated daily ingestion of 800 mg protein (equivalent to roughly five peanuts),” reported the Lancet abstract.
No children in the control group were able to tolerate that amount of peanuts exposure, meaning no desensitization to peanuts had occurred for them.
In the second phase, all the control children were given peanut OIT as well as the treatment group. In this phase, 91 percent of all the children could tolerate 800 mg of protein and 54 percent were able to tolerate a daily dose of 1400 mg of peanut protein powder.
Side effects to the peanut OIT were considered to be mild. Thirty-one children had nausea, 31 had some vomiting, and one had diarrhea. Itchiness occurred in 76 children, and 21 children had some wheezing. One child needed an epinephrine injection but no one had to be admitted to the hospital.
Peanuts are one of the leading causes of food allergy reactions. In the United States, 400,000 school-aged children have this allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
“The families involved in this study say that it has changed their lives dramatically,” study leader Dr. Andrew Clark of Cambridge University Hospitals said in a statement reported in the Los Angeles Times.
The quality of life improved tremendously for these children, as they no longer needed to be so concerned that having an accidental exposure to peanuts would lead to a reaction.
The new results in the Lancet are a "very positive finding," said Dr. Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, associate professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the study.
“Still, this is not a cure,” she added, as reported on CNN.com.
In order for the children to remain desensitized to exposure to peanuts, they will have to consume peanuts daily, perhaps for years Dr. Clark indicated.
It should be noted that while these results are promising, they are still experimental and should not be tried by families on their own.
If you or your child has a sensitivity to peanuts, talk to your allergist to keep abreast of new ways to manage peanut allergies.
Therapy helped kids overcome peanut allergy, but don't try it at home. LA Times.com. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2014.
New treatment may offer hope for peanut allergy. CNN.com. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2014.
Anagnostou PhD. Katherine et al. Assessing the efficacy of oral immunotherapy for the desensitisation of peanut allergy in children (STOP II): a phase 2 randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 30 January 2014. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62301-6.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith