Peanut allergies can be annoying at best and life-threatening at worst. But what if you could actually cure a peanut allergy — even if just for a short period of time?
Researchers in Australia recently discovered a breakthrough in an experiment that they conducted to examine long-term treatment for peanut allergies in children. Their findings, published in a study in the Lancet, indicate that there might be a way to safely treat such allergies in the future.
The scientists conducted a small clinical trial at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, finding that they were able to successfully treat peanut allergies in children for four years using a treatment that combined a probiotic with peanut oral immunotherapy, which means that the kids were given small but increasingly larger amounts of peanuts to eat each day (under careful supervision, of course) to build up their tolerance.
In 2013, researchers enrolled 48 children and randomly divided them into two different groups: one group that was given treatment in increasing amounts once a day for 18 months, and another group that was given a placebo in increasing amounts every day.
At the end of the trial, two-thirds of the group that was given treatment were desensitised to their allergies for up to four years. What's more, four years later, the majority of those who gained initial tolerance to peanuts were still eating peanuts in their diet, and 70% of them passed another test that confirmed their long-term tolerance.
It's important to note that it's a proof-of-concept study that involved a limited sample size, but it still shows that there's hope for allergy treatment that can further be examined through larger studies.
"This is a major step forward in identifying an effective treatment to address the food allergy problem in western societies," Professor Mimi Tang, lead researcher of the study, told The Guardian.
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