Many types of food contain peanuts or traces thereof. The number of persons in Germany suffering from a peanut allergy is increasing steadily. Thus far there has been no effective treatment against peanut allergy.
A Berlin group of researchers thus decided to investigate whether there is any way to desensitise people who are allergic to peanuts. Desensitising means that following successful treatment, the body tolerates small amounts of peanuts without the risk of allergic shock in the event of accidental consumption.
The 23 study participants received tiny amounts of peanuts under medical supervision. These amounts were gradually increased, with the aim of achieving a tolerance of 500 mg peanuts (corresponding to approximately one peanut).
More than half of the participating children aged between three and 14 years were able to eat a whole peanut without suffering an allergic reaction after seven months of study treatment.
Whether the patients have to consume a daily dose of 500 mg as a preventative measure throughout their lives to maintain this newly acquired tolerance is still an open question, which must be clarified by further studies.
The research group issued a warning against "private" desensitisation treatment, as the risk of allergic shock is too high.
Blümchen et al. (2010): Oral peanut immunotherapy in children with peanut anaphylaxis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 126: 83-91.