A glimmer of hope for people with deadly peanut allergy: study

A lifeline may be on the way for those with deadly peanut allergies.

Stanford Medicine researchers say they’ve found an antibody for peanut allergies that could work much better than current treatments. If further testing works out, the injectable drug would allow those with the sickness to “eat a modest amount of peanut protein” in as little as 15 days after the injection.

In their study of 20 people with severe peanut allergies, the researchers gave an antibody treatment to 15 participants, and used the remaining five as a control group. Although the group was small, the results were significant.

Just over two weeks after getting the treatment, 73% of the participants were able to “eat a nut’s worth of peanut protein” without having a reaction.

By contrast, current treatment for nut allergies involves months of gradually exposing patients to extremely small doses of nuts under careful supervision. Stanford’s treatment is a one-time injection that effectively blocks the allergic reaction from even starting. The reaction can trigger mouth and throat itchiness, hives, breathing difficulties and potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

The researchers’ study was published Nov. 14 in JCI Insight. They write in a statement announcing their findings that it’s a much better solution than the current treatments.

“What’s great about this treatment as an option for food allergies is that people did not have to eat the food to get desensitized,” said the paper’s senior author, Dr. Kari Nadeau, professor of medicine and pediatrics at Stanford.

The injection could bring hope to the 32 million Americans who suffer from food allergies — who often have to resort to extreme measures to protect themselves from potentially deadly reactions. One woman with a severe nut allergy recently had to lock herself in an airplane bathroom during a flight in which the crew insisted on serving almonds.

If all goes well and the treatment moves beyond an experimental stage, the drug wouldn’t just “be for one food allergy but for many, and for other allergic diseases, too,” Nadeau says.

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