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New hope for peanut allergy sufferers PDF Print Email
In the largest ever trial to find a treatment 104 British children with severe peanut allergies are to undergo an experimental desensitising therapy that has had promising early results.

The trial will begin next month at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where University researchers will give Sufferers a tiny, increasing daily amount of peanut flour, up to the equivalent of five nuts a day, to build up their tolerance.  

Twenty out of 23 sufferers in an earlier study showed substantial improvement over six months and became able to eat more than 30 peanuts safely, up to 12 nuts a day.

The new trial could lead to a widely available treatment after scientists were awarded a £1 million, three year grant by the National Institute for Health Research.

“The families involved say that it’s changed their lives,” said Andrew Clark, a consultant in paediatric allergy who leads the project, at an American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in San Diego.

“Before they were checking every food label every time they ate food. They would worry it would cause a reaction or even kill them, but now they can go out and eat curries and Chinese food.

“They can eat everyday snacks and treats. For their birthday they can have chocolate cake and chocolates without any fear of reactions. So that's our real motiviation — to try to develop that as a clinical treatment that we could spread to the rest of the country.”

About one in 50 children in the UK suffers from peanut allergies which are becoming more common.  Reactions can range from mild itching to breathing problems, and in severe cases, to a potentially fatal reaction called anaphylaxis.

“This is going to be the largest trial of its kind in the world and it should give us a definitive idea of whether it works and whether it’s safe,” Dr Clark said. He emphasised that parents should not try the treatment without medical supervision.

“I think in two or three years time we will be in a position where we have a treatment that works but we are still working on a long-term cure.

“It’s likely to be a treatment that lasts at last two or three years, and we hope that once that's over we can withdraw the treatment and maintain long-term tolerance, but we need a long-term study to find out.”