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New Treatments Ease Peanut Allergy

Peanut Allergy Vaccine in the Works:Charcoal May Reduce Reactions
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WebMD Health News

July 10, 2003 -- A promising experimental peanut allergy vaccine may soon provide lasting protection against potentially life-threatening reactions.

Though that day may still be years away, new research also shows that a common household item might provide immediate help in warding off or even preventing some severe allergic reactions.

Those studies, along with several other reports detailing new advances in peanut allergy detection, treatment, and prevention, appear in this month's issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI).

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies, and 1.5 million Americans have severe peanut allergies that can be triggered by eating even a trace amount of peanut. Researchers say about half of all deaths due to food allergies are caused by peanut allergy alone.

Despite the severity and prevalence of peanut allergy, researchers say more than 80% of people who die from food-related anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction had not been properly instructed on how to avoid or manage accidental exposure to food allergens or triggers.

A Peanut Allergy Vaccine?

Researchers say the recent discovery of the specific proteins in peanuts that are responsible for triggering an allergic reaction has now paved the way for vaccine development.

A study published in JACI describes a new technique using E. coli bacteria to deliver a vaccine in the form of a suppository that provided effective protection against peanut allergy for up to three months in mice bred to have peanut allergy.

Since genetically altered E. coli bacteria produce the proteins involved in peanut allergy reaction, researchers used an inactivated form of the bacteria to deliver the vaccine, which contained three different genetically modified forms of allergy-causing peanut protein.

"This gave us quite surprising protection as well as longer lasting protection than we've seen by any other method," says researcher Hugh A. Sampson, MD, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who discussed the results of the study in a teleconference today.

"This particular vaccine that could be adopted for human use provides some hope that within the next several years we may be able to treat patients with peanut anaphylaxis and actually turn off the reaction so we no longer see symptoms."

Researchers say they hope to begin human trials of the vaccine within the next year. The vaccine would most likely be given over a series of about three doses using a teaspoon-sized gel suppository and may require yearly booster doses for best protection.

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