Trail mix for everybody! Our long peanut-allergic nightmare may be over.
Allergists at Cambridge Hospitals have published the results of an experimental treatment course for peanut allergies that successfully lifted the sensitivity thresholds for all the kids involved.
Dr Andy Clark and friends used oral immunotherapy [OIT], which uses controlled doses, gradually increased, to desensitize a person to an allergen. In this case, peanuts. They built the tolerance thresholds of four [?] kids from a quarter peanut to five peanuts in just two weeks. It was so successful, they expanded the study to 18 kids.
Which is great. OIT was also the treatment used successfully by Johns Hopkins researchers last fall to overcome milk allergies [press release, abstract]. And Duke University is assembling an OIT peanut study right now. [Here's a PowerPoint of their plan.] Unlike allergy shots, OIT could be used with kids under 5yo, too. Someday.
I was going to get all huffy about why haven't they figured this out sooner, but I can't figure out who to be huffy at. OIT and its related treatment, sub-lingual immunotherapy [SLIT] are both used in Europe for other allergies, but they aren't approved by the FDA. And yet OIT-happy Euros are barely getting around to testing OIT for things like milk and peanuts. In the absence of any actual information, then, I must blame single-payer health care, unions, and godless socialists.
Clark, AT, et al, Successful oral tolerance induction in severe peanut allergy. Allergy 2009 17 Feb. [abstract at nih.gov via bbc, thanks dt reader sara]