by Patrick Yang ’20
Consuming a tiny sample of peanuts can induce life-threatening anaphylaxis in a person with peanut allergies. Peanuts are the most prevalent allergens, accounting for approximately 16 percent of the allergies that Americans suffer from. Incidence rates are only rising, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Although some children are able to outgrow their allergy, a decisive cure has yet to be discovered, and epinephrine injectors are only able to suppress symptoms in the case of an allergic reaction. In the hopes of discovering a more permanent solution to allergies, Dr. Stacie M. Jones of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences recently led a study that examined immunotherapy through prolonged exposure to peanuts in young people.
Seventy-four young people, aged 4-25, with peanut allergies participated in this study. An initial oral food challenge was administered to assess maximum peanut consumption without any allergic symptoms. To test for increased tolerance of peanuts after prolonged exposure, participants were randomly given Viaskin Peanut patches of either 100 or 250 micrograms of peanut protein or placebo patches. The patch was self-administered daily for 52 weeks. Consumption of 44 mg of peanut protein without any allergic reaction was considered median baseline successful consumption. Successful consumption of 5044 mg of peanut protein by the end of the trial, or a 10-fold increase from baseline consumption, was considered overall treatment success.
Both low and high dosages of Viaskin Peanut patches provided similar results – successful treatment in 46 percent and 48 percent of patients, respectively. In contrast, only 12 percent of placebo-treated participants had successful treatment. Application of the patch resulted in some mild skin reactions, such as itches or rashes, but no severe allergic reactions. Although further investigation with a larger sample size is needed, this epicutaneous treatment is a relatively safe, novel approach to immunotherapy that can potentially increase allergen tolerance.
- S.M. Jones, et al., Epicutaneous immunotherapy for the treatment of peanut allergy in children and young adults. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2016) doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.08.017.
- R Gupta, et al. The prevalence, severity and distribution of childhood food allergy in the united states. Pediatrics (2011) doi: 10.1542/ped.2011-0204.
- Image received from: https://sbyireview.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/2ad98-9359111695663314_melvsczu_f.jpg.