• Peanut allergy therapy showing promise

    LONDON — An experimental therapy that fed
    children with peanut allergies small
    amounts of peanut flour has helped
    more than 80 percent of them safely eat a handful of the previously worrisome
    nuts. 


    Although experts say the results of the
    carefully monitored study are encouraging, they warn it isn’t something that
    parents should try at home. 


    Peanut allergies are on the rise
    globally and affect about 1 in 50 children, mostly in high-income countries.
    The consequences can be life-threatening – peanuts
    are the most common cause of fatal food allergy reactions. There is no way to
    avoid a reaction other than just avoiding peanuts.
    Allergy shots used for environmental triggers like pollen are too risky. 


    Doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in
    Cambridge started by giving 99 children aged seven to 16 with severe peanut allergies a tiny 2-milligram dose of a
    special peanut flour mixed into their
    food. Slowly they increased that amount to 800 milligrams. The dose increases
    were given at a research facility where the children were observed for any
    dangerous side effects – the most frequent were itchiness in the mouth, stomach
    pains or nausea. 


    After six months of treatment, more than 80
    percent of the children can now safely eat five peanuts
    at a time. 


    “This made a dramatic difference to
    their lives,” said Dr. Andrew Clark of the University of Cambridge in Britain,
    who led the research. “Before the study, they could not even tolerate tiny
    bits of peanuts and their parents had
    to read food labels continuously.” 


    The intention of the treatment isn’t to help
    kids eat large amounts of peanuts,
    but to prevent a life-threatening allergic reaction in case they accidentally
    eat trace amounts. 


    Clark said the treatment works by retraining
    the patients’ immune systems so they can gradually build up a tolerance to peanuts, though he guessed they might need to
    keep taking it for several years. He and colleagues plan to offer the treatment
    soon in a special peanut allergy
    clinic as well as beginning larger studies. 


    The study was paid for by Britain’s Medical
    Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research. It was
    published online Thursday in the journal, Lancet. 


    In an accompanying commentary, Matthew
    Greenhawt of the University of Michigan described the study’s results as
    “exceptionally promising” but predicted the treatment was still
    “years away from routine clinical use.” He noted that previous
    research that used a similar approach for milk allergies had failed and said it
    was unknown if the peanut therapy
    could produce “lasting tolerance.” 


    Unlike other childhood food allergies,
    children rarely outgrow a nut allergy. Schools across Canada and the United
    States have taken a host of measures to combat the problem, some airlines have
    stopped serving packaged nutsm, and there’s been a fierce debate over whether peanut butter should be banned from schools.


    Lena Barden, 12, used to suffer serious
    swelling and breathing problems after eating just trace amounts of nuts. But
    since she joined the study more than two years ago, Barden’s tolerance has
    grown and she now eats five peanuts a
    day. While Barden says she still hates peanuts,
    the trial has allowed her to indulge in the previously forbidden nuts. 


    “I’d never tried a doughnut before I
    was 11 because they (could) contain traces of nuts,” she said. 


    Then a friend bought a pack and offered her
    one. 


    “It was amazing,” she said.
    “I ate the entire packet.”

    Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsHealth/~3/FFPQ5wJfsPw/

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