Many children can tolerate peanuts using new allergy treatment

19 Nov 2018

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Irish researchers taking part in a global study have helped develop a new treatment that saw improvement in children with a peanut allergy.

As anyone reading the ingredients of everyday items such as chocolate bars or savoury sauces will tell you, having a peanut allergy requires an awful lot of care when eating something unfamiliar.

Now, one of the most common food allergies in the world could one day be reversed in many, thanks to a discovery involving a team from the Irish Centre for Foetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) based at University College Cork.

With Prof Jonathan Hourihane acting as principal investigator, the INFANT researchers ran the Irish part of the trial involving 30 children with another 521 taking part across the world, all of whom have a peanut allergy.

After undergoing a new immunotherapy treatment known as AR101, 67pc of the same children could tolerate eating peanuts after the treatment was administered. Researchers also found that the children who still had an allergic reaction to peanuts after the treatment had much milder reactions and used adrenaline injections far less often than those children who had been on a placebo treatment.

‘A game-changer’

“It works by introducing, initially, minute, controlled amounts of peanut protein, with escalation over a sustained period of six to 12 months, building up a patient’s tolerance to peanut,” Hourihane said.

“We have seen patients go from being highly allergic to very small doses, like one-tenth of a peanut, to being able to manage to eat the equivalent of two or three peanuts without a significant reaction. This is a game-changer for anyone living with this allergy.”

The AR101 trial has been in development for the past two years as part of a double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge. During the course of this time, the patients went from experiencing allergic reactions as severe as blisters on the tongue with exposure to 1mg of peanut protein, to consuming up to 600mg.

To deliver the treatment, the child has to ingest oral powder mixed with food over a prolonged period of time.

With the study’s findings now published to The New England Journal of Medicine, AR101 will be submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a Biologics License Application by the end of 2018, and is expected to be fast-tracked on the FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for patients from ages four to 17 years with a peanut allergy.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic