About 15 million children in the United States suffer from peanut allergies. Now, a team of Australian researchers have made some significant inroads in possibly reprogramming this immune response.
The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has completed an 18 month study on 62 children with peanut allergies. The patients received either a probiotic strain in conjunction with peanut protein or a placebo. Out of those children who received the probiotic and protein combination, 80% were able to consume peanuts at the end of the trial. By contrast, only 4% of the children receiving the placebo were able to tolerate peanuts. According to MCRI, the children receiving the treatment had a resolution rate that was 20 times higher than the natural resolution rate.
Researchers from the Institute state that, although the long term tolerance has not yet been documented, they will continue to follow up with these children to determine just how long the benefits last. While this is not being touted as a ‘cure’ for peanut allergies, the study results appear to be very positive. In fact, there is a seven in nine chance of success that the probiotic and peanut therapy would work.
The probiotic used in this study was lactobacillus rhamnosus given in a fixed dosage equivalent to eating about 44 pounds of yogurt each day. The peanut protein was administered in increasing doses every two weeks over the trial until the maintenance dose of 2 grams was reached. The tolerance assessment was performed two to five weeks after the treatment ended.
Researchers caution that this treatment should only be given under close medical supervision since it entailed giving peanuts to children who were already shown to have a peanut allergy. In fact, some of the patients did have allergic reactions during the trial.
In the end though, over 80% of the participants were able to tolerate peanuts and include them in their diet. It appears that the allergic response to peanuts has been modified so the immune system no longer produces a harmful response to the peanut proteins.
It is hopeful that these children will continue to be able to tolerate peanuts in the coming years. Further research and follow up studies will determine how effective this treatment is in the long term.