New Treatment Could Be 'A Breakthrough' For Kids With Peanut Allergies

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Image via Tanawut Punketnakorn/Getty Images

This trial could have a major impact for those suffering from life-threatening allergies

A possible new treatment for those suffering from peanut allergies has just been announced following a clinical trial aimed to reduce a person’s peanut sensitivity. The results of this trial may just lead to the approval of the first ever oral medication that could dramatically change the lives of those with severe peanut allergies.

The yearlong clinical trial of an oral immunotherapy program gradually exposed 551 participants (the largest study to date) to peanut proteins, starting with trace amounts that were carefully monitored by doctors. Those amounts were then increased over time as a person’s tolerance developed.

A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that AR101, an immunotherapy drug tested during the trial, allowed participants ages four to 17 to tolerate at least 600 mg of peanut protein (two whole peanuts). By contrast, only 4 percent of the 124 children given a placebo powder could consume the peanut protein without a negative reaction.

Participants ages 18 to 55, however, saw no significant changes in their ability to tolerate peanuts.

“This is not a quick fix, and it doesn’t mean people with peanut allergy will be able to eat peanuts whenever they want,” Dr. Jay Lieberman, the study’s co-author and vice chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Food Allergy Committee, said in a statement. “But it is definitely a breakthrough.”

The results were announced at a conference of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in Seattle over the weekend and could have a dramatic effect on those who suffer, specifically children. To be clear, the goal isn’t to cure the allergy itself with this medication, but to reduce the chance that an accidental exposure that could have deadly consequences. Currently, there are no approved treatments available for people at risk for life-threatening allergic reactions to peanuts.

According to the New York Times, one in 50 American children is allergic to peanuts. As a mom whose child has a life-threatening allergy to tree nuts, I can tell you it’s a frightening way to go through life. If there was an option that could potentially decrease the effects if she were to ingest one, it would feel like a miracle.

Stephen Tilles, co-author of the study and an allergist told EurekaAlert!, “We’re excited about the potential to help children and adolescents with peanut allergy protect themselves against accidentally eating a food with peanut in it.” They’re hopeful there would be a treatment available in the second half of 2019. “If that happens, people who receive and are able to tolerate this treatment should be protected from accidental exposures.”

The approval of the drug is pending a U.S. Food and Drug Administration review, so there are still hoops to get through before it can be available to the general public, but the hope this could bring to families and individuals who suffer is immeasurable.

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