Peanuts are one of the most common food allergies, and it seems to be increasing among children. The amount of children with the allergy in the U.S. tripled between 1997 and 2008, according to a 2010 study. Studies show peanut allergy rates are also increasing among children in the U.K. and Canada.
Peanut allergies can be triggered by more than just eating peanuts. Touching peanuts or peanut butter residue can also cause a severe reaction. Peanut allergies are also one of the most common causes of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, and one of the most common causes of death from a food allergy.
The good news is that researchers may have found a cure. Treatment in clinical trials at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia has shown promising results over four years after the original study.
Researchers used probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy (PPOIT) treatment and followed up with the children four years after the the trial. Children in the trial were given either combination of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus and peanut protein or a placebo once a day for 18 months. They were then tested to see if they had developed a tolerance to peanuts. A whopping 82% of the children who received the treatment were able to tolerate peanuts, versus less than 4% of the placebo group. Four years later, most of the children had retained that tolerance.
The study, published in the Lancet, concluded that “PPOIT provides long-lasting clinical benefit and persistent suppression of the allergic immune response to peanut.”
The children deemed tolerant to peanuts “had been eating peanut freely in their diet without having to follow any particular program of peanut intake in the years after treatment was completed,” said Professor Mimi Tang, who led the research. “These findings suggest our treatment is effective at inducing long-term tolerance, up to four years after completing treatment, and is safe,” she said. “It also suggests the exciting possibility that tolerance is a realistic target for treating food allergy. This is a major step forward in identifying an effective treatment to address the food allergy problem in Western societies.”