Children allergic to peanuts may be able to build up a tolerance to the legumes by ingesting small amounts and gradually increasing doses, according to a study.
Through daily consumption of rising doses of peanut flour, up to 91 percent of allergic children were able to safely tolerate 800 milligrams of peanut protein, equivalent to about five nuts, after six months of the treatment, according to the study. The research, involving 96 participants between the ages of 7 and 16, was published today in the Lancet medical journal.
The study, conducted by researchers at Cambridge University Hospitals in England, adds to research showing that immunotherapy can help mitigate allergic reactions to food, which affects 32 million Americans and Europeans. While the findings are promising, long-term side-effects are unknown, and more studies in larger populations are needed, said Matthew Greenhawt, an assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Michigan.
While the study authors “provide further evidence that oral immunotherapy is a potential treatment for food allergy, more high-quality data are needed,” Greenhawt said in a comment accompanying the study publication. “This must be done without added pressure or heightened expectations to quickly produce a marketable therapy.”
One group of participants was given daily doses of peanut flour that rose from 5 milligrams to 800 milligrams over two weeks and then maintaining 800 milligrams over 24 subsequent weeks. The flour was finely ground and mixed into food before ingestion.
A control group avoided peanuts, the current standard of care.
A study at Boston Children’s Hospital published last month showed that children whose mothers ate more peanuts and tree nuts while pregnant are less likely to develop allergies to these foods.