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    Peanut Allergy May Be Preventable

    New Drug Protects From Reactions; New Finding May Keep Kids From Getting Nut Allergies

    TNX-901 continued...

    It wasn't easy to get peanut-allergic people to volunteer for the study, note researchers Donald Y.M. Leung, MD, PhD, of National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, and colleagues. But in the end, 84 brave souls volunteered to take various doses of TNX-901 -- or a placebo -- and then eat peanut flour until they got an allergic reaction. Their heroic act may one day save lives.

    "These results are highly encouraging," Leung and colleagues write in the NEJM. "[However], TNX-901 is still an experimental drug. Approval for general use will require confirmation of these results in additional studies."

    Unfortunately, such studies are not under way. The reason? Three drug companies that had partnered to make the drug are now fighting other over the rights to develop TNX-901 and similar drugs.

    That's too bad. Henry Metzger, MD, section chief at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases, says TNX-901 represents a radical new approach to allergy.

    "This tries to take people who are already allergic and prevent them from maintaining that allergic state," Metzger tells WebMD. "So it is not totally prevention, but it is somewhere in between -- it is preventing progression."

    True Prevention of Peanut Allergy

    In the future, there may be far fewer people with Flegel's problem. Another NEJM study looks at how kids become allergic to peanuts in the first place. The findings aren't just pie in the sky -- they point to things parents can do right now.

    Metzger says the study, by Gideon Lack, MD, of the Imperial College in London, and colleagues, is very attractive.

    "It makes an attempt to get at the root cause of this particular kind off allergy," he says.

    Scientists have had several ideas about when peanut allergies start. Some blame mothers for eating peanuts while pregnant or while nursing. Others say it happens when kids eat peanuts or peanut butter while they're still babies. Now it looks as though none of this is true.

    Lack's team studied nearly 14,000 preschool children. Forty-nine of them had peanut allergies. What made them different? It wasn't peanuts eaten by pregnant or nursing mothers. It wasn't even early peanut eating. Instead, kids were more likely to have peanut allergy if they had eczema or other oozing, crusting rashes. It was also linked to taking soy milk or soy formula. And it was highly linked to the use of skin creams containing oil from peanuts or other nuts.

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