UCC clinical trials crack code to managing kids’ peanut allergies

12 May 2023

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The project found a specially designed patch successful in preventing severe peanut allergy symptoms in toddlers.

A late-stage clinical trial run by Irish-based and French-based scientists found that allergic reactions to peanuts in toddlers could potentially be prevented or reduced in severity by getting the child to wear a special patch.

The scientists conducted a trial of the Viaskin peanut patch in children aged between one and three years old who had been diagnosed with a peanut allergy.

After wearing the patch for around 22 hours a day for a year, 67pc of children were able to tolerate 300 to 1,000 milligrams of peanut protein. This was the equivalent of one to four peanuts.

The Ireland-based scientists behind the discovery work at the Health Research Board Clinical Research Facility at University College Cork (UCC).

They collaborated on the clinical trials with scientists in the French biopharmaceutical company DBV Technologies and other institutions around the world. The findings have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Some of the toddlers who took part in the trial were Irish. The patch could bring hope to their families when it comes to managing the severity of their allergic reactions.

Dr Juan Trujillo, paediatric allergist in Cork University Hospital, was principal investigator of the trial in Ireland.

Commenting on the trial’s success, Trujillo said, “These results are encouraging and give new hope to toddlers and their families who currently have no approved treatment options and who must instead focus on avoidance, which can impact quality of life.”

“It is only through clinical trials we will be able to determine if new treatments are effective and safe in young patients with peanut allergies,” he added.

Trujillo also said that the allergy research centre in UCC was one of “the top recruiters of this clinical trial worldwide”, positioning Ireland  as one of the biggest centres of peanut immunotherapy research in Europe.

UCC has long been a hub for child health research in Ireland thanks to the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Infant research centre.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.