FEB 28, 2022 10:00 AM PST

Fecal Microbiota Transplant Promising for Peanut Allergy Patients

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Peanut allergies can be fatal, leading to severe allergic reactions that can restrict breathing and digestive problems, which is why people with peanut allergies have to be constantly aware of what they are eating. These allergies can affect up to 2% of the global population, and can start early in life, sometimes as early as a year old. There is currently no cure for peanut allergies; people use medication to treat accidental exposure to peanuts or may use a combination of peanut exposure and immunosuppressive drugs, though this approach is often ineffective in adults. Some medications exist (such as the FDA-approved Palforzia) that may reduce the severity of allergic reactions. 

A recent phase 1 clinical trial at Boston Children’s Hospital examined a therapy designed to have a similar effect to Palforzia: to reduce the severity of allergic reactions to peanuts and to allow people with peanut allergies to have small amounts of peanuts with little to no risk. Only this therapeutic uses donor fecal matter. And it appears to show promising results.

Perhaps unpleasantly referred to as a “poop implant,” the therapeutic is a fecal matter transplant (FMT) therapeutic that uses stool from a donor who does not have a peanut allergy. The idea is the FMT would intervene in and change a person's gut, which researchers believe has a significant impact on the body’s immune system and, therefore, allergic reactions. The idea of intervening in the gut has been explored for a range of health conditions, including allergic reactions.

The clinical trial builds on previous research conducted at Boston Childrens, which concluded that babies with and without peanut allergies had different bacterial composition in their stool. 

The study enrolled 15 participants between the ages of 15 and 33. All participants received doses of the FMT, though one arm received preliminary antibiotics designed to “clear” their gut. Preliminary findings suggest that a single dose of FMT showed a substantial and prolonged increase in how much peanut an individual could tolerate. 

Researchers believe their work points to the gut microbiota as a potential area of therapeutic intervention for peanut allergies.

Sources: Eureka Alert!; European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology; Gut Microbes

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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