Following a BBC Health and Science article by James Gallagher published January 30th 2014, entitled “Peanut Allergy Treatment a Success,” a recent clinical trial is making breakthroughs for children allergic to peanuts. 85 children with mild to severe peanut allergies were placed on a peanut protein regimen. Every day they were required to eat a small dose of the protein, gradually increasing the amount over the course of the study. The findings concluded that 84% of these allergic children could eat up to 5 peanuts a day after six months on the regimented peanut protein diet.
According to the article “peanuts are the most common cause of fatal allergic reactions to food. There is no treatment so the only option for patients is to avoid them completely, leading to a lifetime of checking every food label before a meal.” ( 8-10 )
However, this new therapy, although not yet clinically certified, provides hope for allergic children to live a less dietary restricted and monitored life, a burden of stress for many people living with strong allergies.
The purpose of the Cambridge Addenbrooke based Hospital trial was to condition the immune system to cope with trace amounts of the protein. The does was first administered as 1/70th of a peanut trace, which is considerably below the suggested threshold for allergic episodes. Every two weeks the child would spend one night at the hospital where they were given an amplified dose with the potential to elicit a stronger response.
Although the results were extremely encouraging, doctors and researchers alike are cautioning against any considerations of simulating this experiment outside of a controlled, professional environment.
Professor Gideon Lack posited that “..proper risk assessment needs to be done to ensure we will not make life more dangerous for these children.” ( 50-51 )
A professor of allergy and clinical immunology at the Imperial College of London, Barry Kay, brought up a good point. He affirmed that “the real issues that still remain include how long the results will last, and whether the positive effects might lead affected individuals to have a false sense of security,” ( 55-57 ) concerns that need both clinical and psychological evaluation for this treatment to gain real credibility.
Gallagher, James. “Peanut Allergy Treatment a Success.” BBC.com 30th January, 2014.