Peanut allergies are one of the most common types of food allergies. Though these allergies only affect about two percent of the overall population in the U.S., it remains one of the most common food allergies, especially among children. That’s often why, for example, many schools have to be designated nut-free spaces. In addition to being a fairly common food allergy, they can have deadly consequences, including anaphylactic shock. To make matters worse, cases of peanut allergies have risen sharply since 2010, with about a 21% increase in cases.
Researchers are searching for new ways to cure and prevent severe reactions to peanuts in people with peanut allergies. A team of researchers at Flinders University is taking a slightly different approach to treating peanut allergies by focusing, in a sense, on how peanuts are “prepared” before being eaten. Their work is described in a recent study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy.
Specifically, researchers looked at whether “boiling” peanuts before eating them could help children overcome an allergic reaction to eating a peanut. This work builds on prior work that explored the role that heat might play in affecting how children with allergies might respond to eating peanuts. Researchers highlight that prior research indicated that heat affects certain protein structures in proteins, which may reduce the likelihood of someone experiencing an allergic reaction.
To test these questions, researchers developed a two-step treatment process. First, researchers gave participants very small doses of peanut in the beginning of the study to help desensitize them until they were able to achieve no reaction at all. Then, researchers prepared peanuts in different ways for study participants to eat: peanuts boiled for 12 hours, peanuts boiled for two hours, and peanuts that were roasted instead of boiled. The study enrolled 70 children ages six to 18 years of age to eat one of the three types of peanuts for 12 weeks.
Overall, about 80% of all participants were desensitized to peanuts during the study, meaning they experienced no allergic reaction.
While larger clinical trials are needed to confirm study findings, they do shed some light on possible immunotherapeutic approaches that could improve treatment options for people with peanut allergies in the future.
Sources: Eurekalert!; Clinical and Experimental Allergy; ACAAI