Can Childhood Peanut Allergies Be Cured?
Peanut allergies are pretty horrible, the inability to enjoy Reese's notwithstanding. Whether the allergies are life-endangering or just a pain to deal with on a daily basis, they're a fact of life for many people. Sure, there are creative workarounds like using peanut butter alternatives and making peanut-free snacks. In fact, scientists are even trying to develop allergy-free peanuts. Now, thanks to Australian researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, there might actually be a way to cure children of their peanut allergies.
The study, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Journal, tested the effects of a treatment called probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy (PPOIT). According to the Australian Associated Press, the treatment is intended to reprogram the way that immune systems respond to peanuts. Basically, children were given a probiotic (Lactobacillus rhamnosus, if you're curious) in combination with increasing amounts of peanut protein.
It worked. For the first trial, in 2013, 82% of the 48 children who received the treatment were tolerant to peanuts by the end. Now, four years later in 2017, 70% of the children are still tolerant to peanuts, which means that the PPOIT had a lasting effect. As Professor Mimi Tang, the lead researcher, told the Australian Associated Press, "These children had been eating peanuts freely in their diet without having to follow any particular program of peanut intake in the years after treatment was completed."
Of course, it goes without saying that 70% isn't 100%. Still, the study is promising for allergy sufferers. If more and larger clinical studies confirm the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute's findings, we might be able to see a huge decrease in the rates of food allergies in children. As Tang said, "Many of these children who had benefited from our probiotic peanut therapy could now live like a child who didn't have peanut allergy."