This Therapy for Peanut Allergy Lasts, Study Finds
Even after a year-long break, kids maintained their tolerance
By Dennis Thompson
FRIDAY, March 4, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Once a tolerance to peanuts has developed in kids considered at high-risk for developing a peanut allergy, it seems to last, new research suggests.
The children in the study developed a tolerance after they were fed peanuts for years as part of a supervised clinical trial. Now, the researchers are reporting that those youngsters maintained their tolerance for at least a year, even if they didn't keep eating peanuts.
"The therapy persisted, and after 12 months of avoidance there was no increase in the rates of peanut allergy. They maintained their ability to tolerate peanuts, even though they hadn't been eating it," said Dr. Sherry Farzan, an allergist with Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. Farzan wasn't involved in the research.
This suggests that the immune system "learns" that peanut is not a threat to the body, and kids won't have to keep eating peanuts for the rest of their lives to maintain their tolerance, said Dr. Scott Sicherer. He's a pediatric allergy specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Sicherer also wasn't part of the current study.
Both Farzan and Sicherer warned that this allergy prevention strategy should only be pursued with a doctor's supervision. Doctors know the proper amount of peanut that will challenge the immune system without provoking a reaction, and can step in to protect the child if a reaction does occur.
And, this prevention therapy is only for kids at risk of peanut allergy, not for kids who already have developed the allergy, Sicherer warned.
"If you have someone who already had a peanut allergy and gave them peanuts, then they'd get sick and maybe end up in an emergency room," he said.
Findings from the study are scheduled to be presented Friday at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology meeting in Los Angeles. The study was also published online March 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The new study is an extension of the groundbreaking LEAP (Learning Early about Peanut Allergy) clinical trial. Last year, that trial found that feeding peanuts to at-risk babies for 60 months reduced their risk of developing a peanut allergy. The study determined an infant's risk of peanut allergy using an allergy skin test.