Is a Peanut Allergy Cure Via Oral Desensitization Possible?

Peanuts are a treat for some, but for others even one peanut can trigger severe food allergies. Some peanut allergy responses are so serious that they are actually life threatening. There is now talk of a cure for peanut allergy sufferers.

Understanding the Role of Peanuts in Food Allergies

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases states that 0.8% of children (and 0.6% of adults) suffer from a peanut allergy; by comparison, 2.6% of children present with food allergies involving eggs. The foregoing numbers notwithstanding, exposure to peanuts is the leading cause of food allergy related deaths. Symptoms of exposure, as listed by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, are eczema, hives, asthma, gastrointestinal upset, and finally anaphylactic shock.

So why do Peanut Allergy Sufferers not Simply Avoid Food Allergies Causing Peanuts?

Avoiding allergy causing peanuts is easier said than done! Considering that exposures are largely accidental, it is the predominance of peanuts in everyday food items that makes it hard to avoid them. After all, peanuts are part of cereals, Asian foods, bakery items, ice cream, and also natural flavorings, making it hard to second guess when an item that is devoid of actual peanut chips might actually contain peanut oil or peanut butter.

Could Talizumab a.k.a. TNX-901 be the Cure for Peanut Allergy Sufferers?

It was the hope that Tanox, Inc. would provide a drug that could counteract food allergies symptoms related to peanuts, but unfortunately a legal dispute broke out and the New York Times reported in 2003 that lawsuits and briefs were cluttering the court system, effectively delaying clinical application of the drug. Yet even this drug was not a cure for peanut allergy sufferers, since it simply increased their ability to tolerate peanuts but did not take away the allergic response altogether.

Oral Desensitization is the Latest Attempt at Finding a Cure for Peanut Food Allergies

Great Britain’s Cambridge Network reported on its desensitization therapy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital which had patients submit to daily ingestions of peanut flour. Instead of relying on drugs, scientists worked on training the body to increase its natural resistance to peanut induced allergic reactions. Researchers are quick to point out that it is not a total cure for peanut allergy sufferers, but instead a way to survive accidental exposure to peanuts and related products.

At the end of the desensitization therapy, children are able to safely eat up to 10 peanuts. The obvious problem of the initial study is the number of participants: four. Duke University and the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock also worked on oral desensitization therapy with good results. WebMD reported on the fact that successful peanut oral desensitization actively changed the immune system of patients and provided peanut tolerance – albeit in limited quantities.

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Peanut Allergy Cure on Its Way

You may not be too crazy about ingesting peanut butter with all of the salmonella scares and recalls of anything containing any trace of the notorious nut, but there are some people in the world who would love to enjoy a PB amp; J sandwich. Or at least they’d like to be able to breathe easier knowing that peanut particles that make their way into supposedly nut-free foods or that float around in the air on airplanes aren’t going to kill them.

These terrifying worries may soon be a thing of the past, because CBS News has reported that there’s been a breakthrough in the study of treatment for peanut allergies.

It’s pretty terrifying to imagine being allergic to something so small and so common in our food, but there are millions of people in the world suffer from peanut allergies. The effects that peanuts have on allergy sufferers are pretty frightening; they induce anaphylactic shock, which causes the airway to close up and makes it difficult to breathe. In some cases, if the sufferer isn’t treated promptly, they can die.

Before I go any further with this article and reveal the method of treatment that doctors are using for this allergy, I must point out that readers should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES TRY THIS ON THEIR OWN. This method of treatment has only been tested under the care of doctors who are prepared to cope with any problems that may arise from it.

That being said, the method of treatment is fairly simple: sufferers are first given the smallest dose of peanut flour. This dosage is slowly increased by small amounts until the allergy sufferer is eating a few peanuts a day. Once they reach this level of tolerance, they must eat them every day to keep their resistance up. It’s absolutely amazing that such a simplistic method has been effective in treating something so deadly.

Once again, it’s important that no one attempts to treat their allergies using this method on their own. Levels of allergies vary, and there are some suffers out there who are so sensitive to peanuts, it would be very easy for them to end up in trouble if they were to try this.

Researchers are still trying to answer a few questions they have about this form of treatment, but it could prove effective for treating other types of allergies, as well. For now, it’s best for peanut allergy sufferers to sit tight and avoid all products containing the nuts (something many Americans are doing, anyway) until this method of treatment is perfected. But it’s great to know that there’s hope for all of the moms out there who have to fear their child switching their lunch at school for something their classmate has that might be deadly.