12 January - 20 June 2016

Researchers may have cure for peanut allergies

12 February 2015

The number of people experiencing peanut and food allergies has been slowly increasing over the years, with more than 3 million Americans now recorded as having some form of reaction to peanuts. These reactions can vary in intensity, from people experiencing mild discomfort to some going into life-threatening anaphylactic shock. There has been a lot of encouraging evidence linking Oral Immunisation Therapy (OIT), which involves the administration of a small dosage of peanuts every day, with an increase in tolerance to peanuts. However, once the period of OIT has finished, subjects eventually go back to being allergic. A new study, performed at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia, found that combining the method of OIT with a daily dose of a strain of bacteria, showed a sustained increase in tolerance of peanuts in 82% of participants.

The study involved 56 participants who were split into two groups (active treatment group and placebo group) depending on their age and the results of a peanut prick test (SPT). The active group received a probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus rhamnosus at a fixed dose once daily alongside a dosage of peanut protein. This bacterium has previously demonstrated tolerance promoting effects through the induction of the regulatory T and TH1 cytokine responses. The entire study lasted 18 months, with increased doses of peanut protein occurring throughout this period until a maintenance daily dose of 2g a day was reached. The placebo group was given samples of similar taste, colour and smell and was monitored over the same period of time.

Immediately after the 18 month trial, the subjects were tested through an oral double-blind placebo controlled food challenge (DBPCFC) which required them to eat 4g of peanut protein at one time. If subjects showed any adverse effects at this time point, they were considered still allergic and any who passed were considered desensitized. The participants who passed this stage then took part in a second DBPCFC two weeks later to assess if they were able to sustain a level of unresponsiveness.
The results were highly positive, with 23 (82%) out of 28 of the participants reaching sustained unresponsiveness from the active treatment group. Only 1 out of the 28 placebo participants maintained the sustained unresponsiveness state. However positive the results are, the scientist conducting the experiment have noted that further time points need to be established to see if the treatment is still successful.

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