New safe and effective treatment for peanut allergies could stop patients from reacting to trace amounts of peanuts.
As one of the most common food allergies, peanut allergies affect around 1 in 50 children in the United Kingdom, however, the number of people affected by nut allergies is steadily increasing. A peanut allergy presents when the immune system reacts to the protein found in peanuts.
New research has proposed a new way to offer protection to those with peanut allergies. For someone suffering from a peanut allergy, accidental peanut exposure usually results in the use of an EpiPen followed by a trip to the hospital. This new treatment could potentially avoid the reactions and hospital trips entirely.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina Medical School have developed a sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). The treatment involves the individual putting a minuscule amount of liquefied peanut protein under the tongue to be immediately absorbed into the blood stream. This minor exposure to peanuts allows the immune system to become desensitised to the allergen.
Edwin Kim, MD, is the first author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Medical School. In the research process, the SLIT could offer patients a safe and efficient way to prevent severe allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis.
Edwin Kim explained: “As a parent of two children with nut allergies, I know the fear parents face and the need for better treatments…We now have the first long-term data showing that sublingual immunotherapy is safe and tolerable, while offering a strong amount of protection.”
The three main immunotherapeutic treatment clinical scientist have developed to treat nut allergies all attempt to desensitise the immune system to nut proteins. Around 100mg of peanut protein can trigger a severe allergic reaction. This trace amount is commonly present when the packaging reads “manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts”.
The new safe and effective treatment for peanut allergies reduces the chances of serious allergic reactions to trace amounts of peanut proteins. Kim said: “SLIT participants tolerated between 10 and 20 times more peanut protein than it would take for someone to get sick…We think this provides a good cushion of protection – maybe not quite as good as OIT – but with an easier mechanism (sublingually) and, as far as we can tell right now, a better safety signal.”