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    New Hope for Kids With Peanut Allergies

    Experimental therapy increased tolerance, but much more testing needed, doctors say


    For the study, a team lead by Dr. Andrew Clark, of Cambridge University Hospitals, randomly assigned 99 children, aged 7 to 16 years, with varying degrees of peanut allergy to one of two groups. The first group received 26 weeks of oral immunotherapy; the second group avoided peanuts or peanut-containing foods altogether. Avoidance is the current treatment for peanut allergy, the researchers said.

    After six months, 24 of 39 children who received immunotherapy in the first phase were able to tolerate a daily dose of roughly 10 peanuts, compared with none of the kids in the avoidance group.

    In the second phase of the trial, children assigned to avoidance were offered 26 weeks of immunotherapy followed by a final food challenge.

    After the second phase, 54 percent of these children passed the challenge.

    About one-fifth of the kids who had immunotherapy had some mild reactions to peanuts, including nausea, vomiting, itching in the mouth, hives and wheezing, the study found. One child needed epinephrine to quell a severe reaction, and that child withdrew from the study, the researchers said.

    "This treatment allowed children with all severities of peanut allergy to eat large quantities of peanuts -- well above the levels found in contaminated snacks and meals -- freeing them and their parents from the fear of a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction," Clark said in a journal news release. "The families involved in this study say it has changed their lives dramatically."

    Study co-author Dr. Pamela Ewan, head of the allergy department at Cambridge University Hospitals, cautioned parents, however. "[Oral immunotherapy] is not a treatment people should try on their own and should only be done by medical professionals in specialist settings," she said.

    Peanut allergy is the most common cause of food-related severe and life-threatening allergic reactions, according to background information included in the study.

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