Possible life changing solution to peanut allergies?
The holy grail for life-threatening food allergies is desensitization, where the body ‘learns’ to tolerate whichever foreign substance it is reacting to. As a parent of a food-allergic child, making progress towards this goal has deep personal significance to me.
One of the most promising means to do this involves exposing the body to minute levels of the allergen; not enough to provoke any response, but enough to train the immune system to accept it. Studies that have investigated this in the past, by providing tiny amounts of peanut for peanut-allergic children to eat (termed ‘oral immunotherapy’), have been hopeful. But the approach is not considered ready for widespread adoption not least because the inherent risks are very real and one child did die in one study.
However, a newly-released study used an alternative to consuming the food. It used a wearable skin patch that delivered very small doses of peanut protein, just 50-250 micrograms, through the skin. At the end of the 1-year trial, half of patients using the 250 microgram dose, tolerated 10 times the peanut dose that they tolerated when they started the trial. No serious adverse reactions occurred.
While this is not yet FDA-approved, this is hugely promising news to the allergy community and may herald the way for the first actual treatment for food-allergic individuals.