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Immune Therapy Cracks Egg, Peanut Allergies

Oral Immunotherapy Helps Kids Overcome Food Allergies, Researchers Say

Eating Peanuts With Impunity

In the first study, nine of 12 children with peanut allergies who swallowed small doses of peanut protein under a doctor's supervision daily for three to five years can now eat unlimited amounts of peanuts.

Four weeks after stopping the immunotherapy treatments, the children were challenged with a doctor-supervised test in which they were given increasing doses of peanut protein. They were able to eat the nuts without an allergic reaction, Burks says.

Not only did they not develop hives, wheeze, or exhibit other symptoms, but immune system changes suggest they've completely outgrown their allergies, he says.

The researchers looked at blood levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), an immune system protein the body makes in response to allergens that tells you the likelihood that you're allergic.

IgE levels dropped in all the children, but they went down faster in the children who are now able to eat peanuts with impunity, he says.

Another 15 kids showed signs of desensitization, meaning that they could eat much higher doses of the peanut protein before having an allergic reaction.

"They're still on immunotherapy but their IgE levels aren't where we want them to be," Burks says.

In the study, the children were given tiny but escalating doses of peanut protein in the form of a powder sprinkled into applesauce or other food.

Other Nut, Egg Studies

In a second study of 25 children with peanut allergies, the researchers gave the peanut protein treatment to 16 children and placebo powder to the other nine.

After one year, 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 20 peanuts before they developed symptoms.

The egg study involved 55 children aged 5 to 18. Forty were escalating daily doses of egg white powder and the rest got placebo powder.

None of the kids on placebo passed the egg challenge a year later, while 21 of the 40 could tolerate the full 5-gram dose without having a reaction. That's only about half an egg, but a few of the children are able to tolerate more and are eating scrambled eggs for breakfast, Burks says.

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