Research Brings Hope For Children Suffering From Peanut Allergies

PUBLISHED: 17:27 20 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:46 04 May 2010

A GROUP of children with peanut allergies have been taking part in the world s first peanut desensitisation programme. The world-leading research is being carried out at Addenbrooke s Hospital in Cambridge and has offered hope to sufferers of the potenti

A GROUP of children with peanut allergies have been taking part in the world's first peanut desensitisation programme.

The world-leading research is being carried out at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and has offered hope to sufferers of the potentially fatal allergy.

The young sufferers have been eating small doses of peanut flour every day for six months, enabling them to develop a tolerance to the nuts. Some patients are now eating up to 10 peanuts a day to maintain that tolerance - an amount that could previously have killed them.

Four patients took part in the initial research, which has been published this week by a medical publication and a further 18 children, aged 7-17 are now successfully following the programme. All the original patients are now eating at least five peanuts a day to help their bodies maintain the ability to tolerate the food.

The news is being hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of the allergy, which affects one in 50 young people in the UK, and unlike other childhood allergies, rarely goes away with age.

Dr Andy Clark, who led the research, said: Every time people with a peanut allergy eat something, they're frightened that it might kill them. Our motivation was to find treatment that would change that and give them the confidence to eat what they like. It's all about quality of life.

"For all our participants, a reaction could lead to a life-threatening anaphylactic shock, but now we've got them to a point where they can safely eat at least 10 whole peanuts. It's not a permanent cure, but as long as they go on taking a daily dose they should maintain their tolerance."

Previous peanut allergy desensitisation programmes in the 1990s, produced serious side-effects and were not successful. These attempts used peanut injections rather than more gentle oral doses tested in the Addenbrooke's study and doctors say that difference may have played a role in the making of the new approach so much more effective.

Researchers hope to extend the treatment to adults, which could mean that a potentially fatal allergy could become a thing of the past for thousands of people in the UK.

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