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New oral therapy could provide treatment for peanut allergies

Research News
Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 11:00am

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Sarah and Olivia were both diagnosed with a peanut allergy at an early age; both severe enough that they needed to carry an EpiPen in case of anaphylaxis. 

However, since taking part in our peanut allergy immunotherapy trial, both girls are able to tolerate peanut – and Sarah regularly includes peanuts in all forms of her diet. 

Over 60 peanut allergic children in the study were either given a dose of a probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, together with peanut protein in increasing amounts, or a placebo over 18 months to assess whether children would become tolerant to peanut.

The probiotic was a fixed daily dose, while the peanut oral immunotherapy was a daily dose of peanut protein starting at very low doses followed by a dose increase every two weeks until the maintenance dose (2 grams peanut protein) was reached. At the end of the treatment, the child’s ability to tolerate peanut was assessed by a peanut challenge performed two to five weeks after stopping treatment.

Astoundingly, researchers found over 80% of children who received the oral immunotherapy treatment were able to tolerate peanut at the end of the trial, compared to less than 4% of the placebo group. This is 20 times higher than the natural rate of resolution for peanut allergy.

The trial was intensive, and for some, difficult. Michelle Bridgeman, Sarah’s mum says, “Sarah was sick pretty much the whole time (during the trial) when doing fortnightly up-doses.”

However Michelle says the trial has definitely been worthwhile. "The trial has meant so much to us it is indescribable! When Sarah was small you could control what she ate, keep her in relatively safe environments and attend birthday parties to ensure she was safe. As she got older though it was becoming very hard – school camps, parties, play dates – so not having to worry about her in those situations is just unbelievable.”

Find out more about Professor Mimi Tang and her team’s finding.  

Find out more about our allergy research.