In carefully conducted ongoing studies, giving peanut-allergic children peanuts in increasingly higher amounts over time has eased their allergic reactions to the nuts and even helped some of them lose their peanut allergies altogether.
However, the researchers from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, cautioned that much more research is needed before peanut therapy can be used routinely. Peanut therapy is still only a clinical investigation; it's not something parents should try at home.
Five years ago, the research team began enrolling peanut-allergic children in a series of studies to see if incremental doses of peanut protein could change how the body's immune system reacts to its presence.
They started by giving participating children tiny amounts of peanut - as small as 1/1000th of a peanut daily. Eight to 10 months later, many of the children are now tolerating up to 15 peanuts per day.
According to the report, five of the children have seemingly have lost their sensitivity to peanuts.
In another study, a group of peanut -allergic children who have thus far completed a year of peanut treatment are able to tolerate about a handful of peanuts daily without any symptoms, whereas those that were not on the treatment had allergic reactions after the equivalent of about a peanut and a half. As with the other study, the investigators plan to see how these children do once the peanut treatment is stopped.
The researchers said, "Some kids outgrow peanut allergy," Burks noted. "We'd like, hopefully, one day to be able to identify kids early in life who won't outgrow their peanut allergy and then start some type of peanut treatment early."
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology in Washington, D.C.
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