New treatment may cut peanut allergy by 86%, study says

Posted Feb 24, 2015 by Sravanth Verma
A new study suggests that infants exposed to peanuts before their first birthday may be at reduced risk of developing peanut allergy.
Doctors said Thursday they could treat peanut allergy by feeding children the very thing their bodie...
Doctors said Thursday they could treat peanut allergy by feeding children the very thing their bodies reject, so building tolerance that could save a life in case of accidential ingestion
Saul Loeb, AFP/File
The study, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, concludes that children whose dietary intake include small amounts of peanuts from infancy, were less likely to suffer peanut allergies, contrary to current medical opinions.
The study found that children who were given peanuts regularly for at least four years cut their allergy risk by 81 percent on average, as compared to those who avoided peanut consumption. The paper notes that such treatments should be carried out only under the supervision of a doctor, since peanut allergies could be life-threatening. Only children deemed to have mild allergic reactions to peanuts were selected for the study.
Over 600 children, aged between four months to 11 months old in England, were part of the study. All the babies were thought to be at risk for peanut allergies because they were allergic to eggs or had eczema, a frequent symptom of allergies. At five years of age, two percent of those who were fed peanuts developed allergies, while 14 percent of those who weren't on the diet developed allergies.
Some questions are still to be answered though. How much peanut protein is to be consumed, how often and for how long? If a child stops the diet, will it affect the treatment? Will the same treatment help with foods such as milk, eggs and tree nuts?
"These questions must be addressed, but we believe that because the results of this trial are so compelling, and the problem of the increasing prevalence of peanut allergy so alarming, new guidelines should be forthcoming very soon," said Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, an allergy specialist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Dr. Hugh Sampson of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
In the last 10 years, peanut allergy prevalence has doubled to 1.5 percent of all children in developed countries between three and four years of age. A growing number of children in Africa, Asia and elsewhere are also developing the allergy, which does not subside with age.
The study, titled "Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy" was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.