Health

Oral Immunotherapy Shows Promise For Peanut Allergy Sufferers

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Good news for people who suffer from peanut allergies.

A new study published in The Lancet confirmed the effectiveness of oral immunotherapy in treating peanut allergies.

For peanut allergies, oral immunotherapy works by having patients swallow tiny, increasing amounts of peanut over time. As small levels of peanuts are ingested, the immune system of an allergy sufferer builds a resistance to the allergens. In time, peanut allergy sufferers are often able to be exposed to a moderate amount of peanuts without having an allergic reaction.

In the latest study, 80 percent of participants were able to safely eat a handful of peanuts without reacting. Researchers call this success a life-changing find for people affected by peanut allergies.

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“This made a dramatic difference to their lives,” lead researcher Dr. Andrew Clark said. “Before the study, they could not even tolerate tiny bits of peanuts and their parents had to read food labels continuously.”

Clark said patients would likely need to eat peanuts daily for several years in order to permanently establish an immune system tolerance to them. Michael Greenhawt of the University of Michigan called the study “exceptionally promising” but cautioned that he believes routine clinical use is still “years away.”

In the meantime, oral immunotherapy has already had a profound impact on the lives of many people who took part in the study. One participant, 12-year-old Lena Barden, was recently able to eat a doughnut for the first time in her life.

"I'd never tried a doughnut before I was 11 because they (could) contain traces of nuts," Barden said. 

After a cycle of immunotherapy, a friend bought her a box of donuts. Guess what happened next.

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

Sources: CNN, CBS