New research that experiments by treating peanut allergies with oral immunotherapy is showing impressive success, offering hope for children with this sometimes life-threatening food-related condition. The new study, published in The Lancet describes how researchers worked with a group of 99 children to very gradually increase their tolerance to ingesting peanuts.
Researchers first established each child's threshold for the nut—determining at what point they showed signs of the allergy, with symptoms ranging from itching and nausea to vomiting and breathing difficulties. The children in the active treatment group were then given a low dose of peanut protein by mouth, with initial dosage below the amount they had individually been measured to react to. These children took the identical amount of peanut protein daily at home over a two week period. After the initial two weeks, their dosage was increased and the children repeated the home treatment phase. Over the course of this study, the protein dosage was increased a total of nine times.
The gradual protocol of this testing took 26 weeks and resulted in 62% of the children eventually being able to safely tolerate the equivalent of 10 peanuts daily.
Parents are warned not to attempt to induce peanut tolerance at home, as this dangerous allergy carries the risk of anaphylaxis. This type of therapy requires a hospital setting and carefully monitored conditions.
Peanut allergy can be a frightening condition that compels families with affected children to always be on alert, so this research is an important first step toward improving the lives of those who are living with the condition.