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New Treatments Ease Peanut Allergy

Peanut Allergy Vaccine in the Works:Charcoal May Reduce Reactions
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Activated Charcoal May Block Reactions

Although the vaccine study may be the most exciting news, JACI Editor Donald Y.M. Yeung, MD, PhD, says another study about using activated charcoal to curb peanut allergy reactions may provide more practical information.

Researcher Peter Vadas, MD, of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues found that drinking activated charcoal immediately after accidental exposure to peanuts can block further absorption of allergy-causing proteins in the body and reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Activated charcoal is available at many pharmacies.

"Many parents have [the charcoal solution] at home to prevent poisoning, and if a patient accidentally ingests peanuts, this may be another approach to preventing a late reaction by keeping peanut in the stomach so it doesn't get absorbed into the bloodstream," says Leung, who is head of pediatric allergy-immunology at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver.

But experts say early use of activated charcoal is by no means a substitute for using standard treatment for anaphylaxis, such as epinephrine (adrenaline), antihistamines, and seeking emergency medical treatment.

New Advances in a Nutshell

Other findings published in the journal include:

  • Regular treatment with an antibody called TNX-901 every four weeks for 16 weeks made patients less sensitive to peanuts, with most patients able to eat almost nine peanuts. Since accidental peanut ingestions usually involve amounts of less than two peanuts, researchers say long-term IgE therapy be an effective way to manage food allergies.
  • Measurement of a particular protein in the blood called peanut peptide-specific IgE may identify those at risk for allergic reactions.
  • People with a history of peanut allergy and peanut peptide-specific IgE levels of 5 or less have at least a 50% chance of outgrowing their allergy.
  • Food allergies, including peanut allergies, may be a risk factor for life-threatening asthma, and undiagnosed food allergies may trigger dangerous asthma attacks in children.
  • Despite common fears, casual skin contact or inhalation of peanut butter fumes will not usually cause a severe allergic reaction.
  • Commercial dry roasting of peanuts actually enhances the allergy-causing potential of peanuts by inhibiting a natural allergy fighter and may help explain why peanuts are such potent allergens.

"Based on the findings, the future looks brighter for the millions of patients and their families who live each day in fear that one bite of the wrong food that contains peanuts might cause a deadly reaction," says Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder/CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

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