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
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
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.