Relief May Be on the Way for Kids with Peanut Allergies

Researchers have found that delivering small doses of peanut protein using a skin patch can help children with peanut allergies. In total, five study sites across the United States of America randomly assigned 74 peanut-allergic volunteers aged 4 to 25 years to treatment with a patch releasing either a high-dose of peanut protein or a low-dose, or a placebo patch. Participants over 12 did not see as much of an effect, the study found.

Dr. Daniel Rotrosen, an official with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the therapy works by training the skin's immune system to tolerate small amounts of peanuts. So far, it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. According to CNN, the patch called epicutaneous immunotherapy built cellular tolerance to the nuts by releasing peanut proteins into the volunteers' skin.

Results from the first year of the trial were recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The peanut patch trial was conducted at five research sites: Arkansas Children's Hospital, the National Jewish Health Center in Denver, Johns Hopkins University, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

One major unknown is how frequently patients would have to use EPIT patches in order to reduce the severity of their peanut allergies.

Kids between four and 11years old seemed to benefit most from the patch.

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That's very different from the way allergies are typically treated in practice: Before this immunotherapy method, the only way to lessen an allergic reaction was through "desensitization", a process in which you gradually introduce small amounts of the allergen into your body, in the case of peanut allergies, by eating the peanut outright.

The patch may also ease anxiety because it's not a shot like other allergy treatments.

Children aged 4 to 11 had the best response to the patch.

"It could possibly be a limitation to some consumers wanting to use this - although, given the alternative, I think that some people would not mind having to do this every day if it meant protection". Though about half of the participants succeeded in raising their peanut threshold with the patch, that still wasn't the majority of the group.

"It's definitely not a cure, but I think it gives us a lot of information", said Cho.

  • Ismael Montgomery