A possible cure for peanut allergies
A breakthrough new treatment for peanut allergies has enabled previously allergic children to eat the nuts without reaction for four years, raising hopes of a longterm cure for this increasingly common and sometimes life-threatening condition. About 1.4 percent of U.S. children were allergic to peanuts in 2008, up threefold from 1997, reports The Guardian (U.K.). Scientists have long been experimenting with peanut oral immunotherapy, in which sufferers are exposed to increasing doses of peanut protein in order to coax their immune system into developing a tolerance to the allergen. A team at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia took this treatment one step further, by c ombining the peanut protein with a probiotic. They assigned 56 children with peanut allergy to receive a daily dose of either the probiotic-protein combination, or a placebo. At the end of the 18-month study period, 82 percent of those given the treatment had gained tolerance to peanuts, compared with only 4_percent of the placebo group. When the kids were retested four years later, most of those who had gained the initial tolerance were still eating peanuts as part of their normal diet. The treatment needs further research, and won’t be publicly available for at least another five years. But study author Mimi Tang says her findings “show that the probiotic-peanut combination can actually change the immune response to peanuts and provide benefits, long-term, years after” the treatment is stopped.