Peanut allergies affect approximately 2% of children, or about 1.5 million people ages 17 and younger, in the U.S. For many of these children, the effects of exposure to peanuts are life-threatening. In most cases, peanut allergies are life-long. Fortunately, a recent study found that peanut oral immunotherapy can desensitize children to this allergen.
About the Study
The study, called IMPACT, was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The researchers sought to uncover whether peanut oral immunotherapy, administered early in life when the immune system is still maturing, could modify a child’s immune response to peanuts.
Study participants included nearly 150 children ages one to three years old. Only children who had experienced an allergic reaction after eating half a gram or less of peanut protein were eligible.
Each child was randomly assigned to receive either flour containing peanut protein or a placebo flour with a similar appearance and taste. Over a 30-week period, the children in the treatment group ate gradually larger doses of peanut protein, up to 2 grams, or equivalent to about eight peanuts. They then continued this daily dose for an additional two years.
After this, the children underwent an oral food challenge where they received gradually increasing doses of peanut protein up to a maximum of five grams. Then treatment stopped and they avoided peanut products for six months.
Finally, after the six-month period, the children underwent another oral food challenge, consuming five grams of peanut protein. Those who did not have an allergic reaction were later fed eight grams of peanut butter, or about two tablespoons, on another day.
After the treatment period, 71% of children who had received peanut flour were desensitized to peanuts, compared to just 2% of those who received placebo flour. After the six months of peanut avoidance, 21% of children who received peanut flour could eat five grams of peanut protein without an allergic reaction, compared to 2% of those who received placebo flour.
The children who had lower levels of peanut-specific immunoglobulin E antibodies and those who were younger had the best chance of achieving remission.
This study is significant because it shows that peanut oral immunotherapy can, in fact, help desensitize a child to peanut allergies, so you can visit Atlanta Farmers Market without fear of cross-contamination.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an allergy expert, call ENT of Georgia North today.