King’s College London researchers working on a life-changing treatment for peanut allergy said they were able to reduce patients’ sensitivity to the nut using immunotherapy but could not get rid of the allergy altogether.
Peanut oral immunotherapy (POIT) involves giving the patient a small amount of peanut every day, which prompts the immune system to produce antibodies that reduce the body’s allergic response, so if they were accidentally exposed to a small amount of peanut, they could tolerate it and are less at risk of a serious reaction.
As part of the study, researchers examined samples from peanut allergy sufferers who had undergone the therapy and found that, when the protective antibodies were stripped away from the allergy cells, they were still as reactive as ever. Backing up the theory that immunotherapy can provide some protection but cannot ‘cure’ allergies.
Peanut allergy is the most common cause of food allergy deaths, affecting around 1 in 50 children in the UK. There is currently no cure and standard management involves strict peanut avoidance, which has been shown to severely affect the quality of life.
Amena Warner, head of clinical services at Allergy UK welcomed the news, saying it will bring hope to those affected by the allergy. She said:
‘Fear of a life-threatening severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), anxiety and stress associated with managing a peanut allergy has a serious impact of the quality of life.
‘Having new treatments to address risks of accidental exposure by tolerating small amounts of peanut protein can bring hope to those affected by peanut allergy.
‘This may not be a cure (hopefully one day one will be found) but immunotherapy is a positive step in providing treatment to give a level of protection where previously one had not existed. Allergy UK exists to support people affected by allergy.’
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