DEC 17, 2020 6:00 AM PST

A Peanut a Day Keeps Allergies Away

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Canadian researchers have made a breakthrough for children with peanut allergies: immunotherapy that, when taken daily for a year, significantly reduced patients’ sensitivity to the legume.

“There’s a common misperception about peanut allergies—that it’s not a serious health issue,” said lead author on the study and pediatric allergy expert, Edmond Chan. “Although the risk of a fatal reaction to peanuts is low in patients with peanut allergy, it has a major impact on [the] quality of life, and many families feel hopeless in dealing with what can seem like an unmanageable problem.”

Experts estimate that the number of school-age children affected by peanut allergies has doubled over the last decade. Though the root cause of nut allergies is still up in the air, most studies point to it being a result of an overactive immune system. Physical symptoms of allergic reactions range from hives and sneezing to a sharp drop in blood pressure, and in extreme cases, even cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis. It’s difficult to avoid peanuts since trace amounts are commonly found in processed foods, so scientists are on the hunt for ways to manage the condition effectively.

This study, the first of its kind, was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. Chan and colleagues describe how oral immunotherapy was tested in a cohort of nearly 120 preschool-age kids. As part of the treatment regimen, children with peanut allergies are slowly desensitized to the offending allergen by receiving minute, gradually increasing quantities of peanut proteins.

This daily dose of peanuts — around a pea-sized amount of peanut butter, or around 4000mg of peanut protein — was eaten consistently over the course of a year. After this time, the majority (almost 80 percent) of children could safely eat 15 peanuts without serious allergic reactions. Most promisingly, 98 percent of the children could eat three to four peanuts without flare-ups, which means they were protected from severe reactions to consuming trace amounts of the proteins.

For the children that got allergic reactions after a year of immunotherapy, their reactions were mostly mild. “Now, thanks to oral immunotherapy, these kids can accidentally eat something with peanut butter in it—like a cookie or cake—and not suffer a reaction, which is wonderful news for the families,” said study author Lianne Soller from the BC Children’s Hospital.

The authors recommend children with allergies start oral immunotherapy as soon as possible, citing life-long allergies and more severe reactions as possible consequences if left untreated.

 

 

Sources: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, University of British Columbia.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
NOV 24, 2020
Immunology
Dirty Sheets Make Babies Healthier
NOV 24, 2020
Dirty Sheets Make Babies Healthier
Microbiologists have established that the development of infants’ immune systems is intricately linked to the dive ...
DEC 08, 2020
Immunology
Drug Targets Cold Tumors' Achilles Heel
DEC 08, 2020
Drug Targets Cold Tumors' Achilles Heel
Immunotherapies have emerged as a powerful treatment modality for cancer. They join chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, ...
DEC 15, 2020
Immunology
Yes, You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine.
DEC 15, 2020
Yes, You Should Get Your Flu Vaccine.
A recent study published in Science Translational Medicine has provided fresh insights on how our immune systems protect ...
DEC 28, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Mapping Networks of Gene Expression in Cells
DEC 28, 2020
Mapping Networks of Gene Expression in Cells
Every cell contains our whole genome, but not all genes are turned on all the time; gene expression has to be very caref ...
DEC 31, 2020
Immunology
Arthritis Medication Resolves Previously Untreatable Skin Condition
DEC 31, 2020
Arthritis Medication Resolves Previously Untreatable Skin Condition
Bumpy, inflamed, ring-shaped lesions on the skin—granuloma annulare (GA) is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition ...
JAN 19, 2021
Immunology
How Breastfeeding improves Infants Immunity?
JAN 19, 2021
How Breastfeeding improves Infants Immunity?
Breastfeeding benefits are well known for ages, and it has many positive impacts on infant's lives that continue wit ...
Loading Comments...