New study reveals that there might finally be a treatment for people with peanut allergies
As someone with allergies, I can confirm that they suck. Even if it does bug me that I can't snuggle up with a cat or go for countryside walks for too long before I need to be taken to hospital, it's not as bad as having a food allergy.
For those who are allergic to peanuts, it can be hard to avoid trace amounts - given how many surprising foods contain just enough to cause a problem.
However, a recent study has revealed that there may be a way to build tolerance up in those that have serious peanut allergies.
The PALISADE group of Clinical Investigators published the findings of their study this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which participants were shown to improve their tolerance. In the study, random groups were given either capsules of peanut protein or a placebo, while the amount given was gradually increased.
Of those in the study, nearly 500 of them were four to 17 years old, and weren't able to tolerate even a 10th of a peanut dose before the study. However, after taking small doses for a year, two-thirds of them can now tolerate at least two whole peanuts.
Emily Pratt, a six-year-old who took part in the study, spoke to the BBC's Today programme about how it's helped her. "I couldn't have a birthday cake at parties and now I can," Emily, who can now tolerate around seven peanuts, said. Her mother, Sophie, was very happy with the results as well, considering what her diet was like in the past:
"It's been a constant stress. We were quite shocked how you could find traces of peanuts and nuts in all sorts of food, particularly foods that are childhood foods - cakes, biscuits, ice-creams - and that's what was stressful.
"We had to constantly study food labels to ensure peanuts were completely eliminated from Emily's diet. Her allergy was very severe, so even a small amount of peanut could lead to a very serious reaction. The impact on our family life was huge."
The drug that this study uses, 'AR101', is a peanut-derived biologic drug that delivers a daily maintenance dose of 300 mg of peanut protein. The idea is to cause desensitisation, known as a "transient upward shift in threshold reactivity to an allergen as a result of ongoing controlled exposure to that same allergen".
According to the study, 250 out of 372 participants (67.2%) who received active treatment were able to ingest 600 mg or more of peanut protein without any symptoms. UK chief investigator for Palisade, Professor George du Toit, who is a consultant at Evelina London Children's Hospital, said:
"The results of this ground-breaking study are very promising and suggest that we will be able to protect children who are allergic to peanuts from having a severe reaction after accidental exposure.
"This is extremely good news as the number of children being diagnosed with peanut allergy in the UK has more than doubled over the past two decades.
"Peanut allergy is extremely difficult to manage for children and their families, as they have to follow a strict peanut-free diet. Families live in fear of accidental exposure as allergic reactions can be very severe and can even lead to death."
Hopefully, this research can be utilised to help those that suffer from serious peanut allergies in the near future.