New drug shows promise for treating people with peanut allergy

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A new study presented today at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting reports that it's possible to protect yourself against peanut allergies by building a tolerance to the food over time.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study involved 551 participants, 496 of whom ranged in age from four to 17.

Sophie Pratt, 44, from north London, enrolled her six-year-old daughter Emily onto the study.

As anyone reading the ingredients of everyday items such as chocolate bars or savoury sauces will tell you, having a peanut allergy requires an bad lot of care when eating something unfamiliar.

For years, smaller studies have suggested that exposure to escalating amounts of peanut allergen could desensitize people to the potentially life-threatening effects of exposure, which can include anaphylactic shock, but several outside experts said that the large, systematic study of 550 people could lead to the first treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration. At the end of the trial, Two-thirds tolerated the equivalent of two peanuts, which would provide protection against reactions to accidental peanut exposures. With FDA approval this drug would mark the first safe treatment available by prescription for peanut allergies and the patient would need to stay on the drug for a certain period of time to protect against the allergy.

In a year-long trial, children with a severe nut allergy were given increasing amounts of peanut protein.

"Families live in fear of accidental exposure as allergic reactions can be very severe, and can even lead to death".

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A new treatment for peanut allergies is showing promising results. "This has been around in the diet community for a while", she says, noting that it's marketed under the name PB2. By the end of the trial, two-thirds of children who were given the treatment, dubbed AR101, were able to tolerate 600 milligrams of peanut protein-the equivalent of two peanuts-without experiencing allergic symptoms.

"We'd still be asking patients to be reviewing labels and not ingest anything with peanut in them", Keet said.

Peanut allergies are increasingly prevalent among children in the United States and other industrialized countries.

The medically supervised trial at Cork University Hospital offered Eoghan the chance of living a life free from the threat of his allergy.

'The impact on our family life was huge'.

The drug and the study were both designed by Aimmune Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company.

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