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Newly developed pill could make dealing with peanut allergy easier
Many people around the world suffer from a peanut allergy. Nutrition can be a big problem for those affected because peanuts are found in many foods. The effects of consumption range from a simple rash to anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic shock can even lead to death. Can pills with a peanut protein protect people with peanut allergy from the dire consequences of their allergy in the future?
The University of North Carolina scientists found in their current study that pills with peanut protein can increase the protective effect against allergic reactions in people with peanut allergy. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice".
The most common food allergy
Approximately one in 70 children and one in 160 adults are allergic to peanuts, making peanut allergy the most common food allergy. A person with a severe allergy to peanuts can experience dangerous symptoms from tiny traces of nuts. These range from a rash to anaphylactic shock.
Preventive treatment can prevent allergic reactions
However, there is apparently a preventive treatment that could help prevent the worst allergic reactions in the future. The results of the study showed that pills with peanut protein can act like a vaccine for the immune system. The authors explain that so-called oral immunotherapy can reduce the severity of an allergic reaction to peanuts. To completely avoid the risk of an allergic reaction, there is only one option for allergy sufferers: stay away from peanuts.
Treatment is by no means intended to cure the allergy
Immunotherapy is particularly aimed at people with allergies who are careful and avoid contact with peanuts, but may still be exposed to traces of peanuts in food. The aim of the treatment is not to try to cure the allergy, but to train an allergic person's immune system so that it does not respond as strongly when exposed to a small amount of peanuts, the scientists say.
Pill contained peanut flour
The study to measure the potential effectiveness of this method was carried out on 29 people between the ages of four and 26 in ten cities in the United States. There were also 26 participants in a control group. Each of the 29 participants in the study received an experimental drug that contained peanut flour in a pill. Subjects from the control group were given pills with oatmeal instead.
Dosage was increased within six months
Over a period of six months, the participants who took the peanut meal pills gradually received stronger and stronger doses of the powder. All subjects then had to eat around one and a half peanuts in a food test. When the participants took the peanut pills, 79 percent had no reaction to the allergen. If people only took a placebo, the results were different. 81 percent showed mild to moderate reactions such as itchy body rashes, vomiting, abdominal pain or anaphylaxis, although none of the reactions were life-threatening. Only 19 percent in this group showed no response to the allergen.
More research is needed
The pills can protect allergy sufferers from allergic reactions if they eat a tenth of a peanut. Even eating an equivalent of two to four peanuts only led to mild, temporary symptoms, the researchers say. Another ongoing study, involving around 500 participants between the ages of four and 17, found that taking increasing doses of peanut pills resulted in protection from allergic reactions. 76 percent of the participants who took the peanut pills were able to tolerate small amounts of the peanut exposure. Now more studies with more participants are needed to prove that the treatment works so the pills can be approved for general use. (as)