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    New Therapy May Knock Out Peanut Allergy

    Experimental Treatment Gives Patients Tiny Amounts of Peanut Protein

    Oral Immunotherapy continued...

    Most showed signs of desensitization, meaning that they could eat much higher doses of the peanut protein before having an allergic reaction.

    "At the start of the study, these participants couldn't tolerate one-sixth of a peanut," Burks says. "Six months into it, they were ingesting 13 to 15 peanuts before they had a reaction."

    Their parents benefited, too. "Their anxiety levels about going out to eat, even just sending their kids to school, really went down," he says.

    Four youngsters couldn't tolerate the treatment and dropped out of the study.

    Of the other 29, nine kids have now been in the study for more than two and a half years. Five of the 29 have been able to stop treatment because they can tolerate peanuts in their regular diet. The other four children remain on daily maintenance treatment.

    The researchers also looked at blood markers of immune system response, including immunoglobulin E (IgE), a protein the body makes in response to allergens. "It tells you the likelihood that you're allergic," Burks says. IgE levels dropped in all the kids, but they went down faster in the children who are now able to eat peanuts with impunity, he says.

    Second Peanut Allergy Study

    In a second study of 18 children with peanut allergies, the researchers gave the peanut protein treatment to 12 children and placebo powder to the other six.

    After 10 months, the children were given the peanut challenge. The kids taking placebo had allergic reactions after consuming the equivalent of one and a half peanuts. Those in the treatment group could tolerate 15 peanuts before they developed symptoms.

    "This is the first study to show in a controlled way that oral immunotherapy works," Burks says. The study continues, with the researchers planning to enroll about 80 more patients.

    Still, both studies are small and the children haven't been followed for that long. "We have to wait and see if the children continue to tolerate peanuts over the long term," he says.

    Don't try this at home, he cautions. Unless they're in the study, Burks gives the same advice to patients with food allergies that he always has given: avoid the offending food.

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