A trial has found a potential cure for peanut allergies
Food allergies have the potential to be utterly devastating to those unfortunate enough to suffer from them.
The number of individuals who suffer from food allergies has been rising for some years now, and Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) estimates that roughly 15 million Americans now have food allergies. That equates to one in every 13 children, a 50% increase between 1997 and 2011.
More strikingly still, FARE says that cases of peanut allergy appeared to have tripled in children in the United States in the period between 1997 and 2008.
Far from merely being a nuisance to those who suffer from them, food allergies are a serious concern, and can prove fatal.
There is not believed to be any "cure" for peanut allergy, merely precautionary steps that should be taken to avoid coming into contact with peanuts in food produce.
For allergy sufferers, though, this means near constant vigilance is required, and the knowledge that at any moment a contamination of food products could have disastrous consequences cannot be easy to process.
Now, though, a scientific breakthrough might finally have some answers for those who suffer from peanut allergies.
This comes after a new long term study established promising results for peanut allergy sufferers. Participants in the research were given an immunotherapy that appeared to provide at least four years of immunity to a considerable percentage of them.
The treatment involved swallowing a capsule containing a particular strain of probiotics along with a peanut protein every day for 18 months, reports the BBC.
Professor Mimi Tang, a lead researcher on the study hailed the discovery;
"The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanuts like children who don't have peanut allergy and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanuts".
The BBC writes that a month after treatment, 80% of those tested were able to consume peanuts without displaying symptoms of allergy, while up to four years later 70% of subjects remained able to eat peanuts without suffering any adverse symptoms.
Professor Tang believes that the research represents new ground in the treatment's longevity in protecting subjects.
The BBC claims that 250 million people across the world live with food allergies, three times the number of 20 years ago, and Professor Tang believes that the new findings represent an "exciting possibility that tolerance is a realistic target for treating food allergy".
"This is a major step forward in identifying an effective treatment to address the food allergy problem in Western societies."
While the findings are certainly exciting, it has been reported that the sample group of participants was particularly small; just 48 children were involved in the trial, so successful wider tests will need to be conducted before the method can be ascertained as safe to use as a preventative treatment method.
Peanut allergies are thought to be one of the most common causes of food allergy fatalities, and numbers are believed to have grown more swiftly than any other food allergy.