Everything You Need to Know About the Latest Peanut-Allergy Research

A slew of new research related to peanut allergies just hit the media. Here's what it means.



Peanut allergies affect a lot of people — we’re talking 2.8 million Americans. But if the latest surge in peanut-allergy news is any indication, it looks like the ubiquitous nut allergy could soon be a problem of the past. (Fingers crossed.) This month alone, three studies have come out claiming to have found a way to either prevent or treat the all-too-common peanut allergy.

Below, a primer on the latest in peanut-allergy studies. Study up. 

The nutshell: Feeding peanut protein to infants could prevent the development of peanut allergies.
via the Washington Post 

This study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that feeding small doses of peanut protein to infants at risk for peanut allergies actually reduced their chances of developing the allergy — by a lot. The babies were introduced to peanut proteins between the ages of four and 11 months of age.

As the Washington Post reports, “Among the larger of the two groups of children in the study, for example, 13.7 percent of those who avoided peanut protein developed the allergy while just 1.9 percent of those who consumed it did.”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, says these findings are important because they go against the “avoidance approach” that many parents and doctors have been taking for years.

The nutshell: A new “peanut patch” could treat peanut allergies.
via TIME 

How cool is this? A study presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology evaluated 200 patients with peanut allergies for a full year. Researchers gave each patient peanut patches to wear (think: a nicotine patch that’s doused with peanut protein instead), packed with between 50 and 250 micrograms of peanut protein.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that half of the 250-microgram patch users’ peanut tolerance had increased by 1,000 percent — and some children using the 250-microgram patch saw as much as a 19-fold increase in their peanut tolerance. Impressive, right? The researchers also found that the patch had no serious side effects.

The nutshell: Mix of peanut protein and yogurt could treat peanut allergies in kids.
via The Atlantic

For this study, performed by pediatric immunologists at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers split 57 kids with peanut allergies, between the ages of one and 10 years, into two groups. Every day for 18 months, the first group ingested a combination of peanut protein and probiotics found in yogurt, while the second group ingested a placebo.

At the start of the study, the first group was only ingesting a measly .024 grams of peanut protein, but by the end of the 18 months, that dose had been increased two full grams of peanut protein. On the last day of the study, researchers gave all 57 kids with peanut allergies four grams of peanut protein (if that sounds horribly dangerous to you, it totally is, so please don’t try it at home) to see if their bodies could handle it.

Of the first group of kids, who’d been ingesting peanut protein daily for over a year, only three had allergic reactions. Meanwhile, 26 of the 28 kids in the second group, who’d been ingesting the placebo, had allergic reactions.

The next step, researchers say, is to see just how long the tolerance lasts. Stay tuned.

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