On a global scale, Australia has a high prevalence of potentially fatal peanut allergies. About three in every 100 kids is allergic to peanuts – and while that may not sound like many, if you’re a parent of a nut-allergic child, that is three too many.
So this breaking news from an ongoing study is fabulous for allergic kids, their parents, their friends and the schools they attend. Because if these kids can be exposed to peanuts – which are, in some form, in everything it seems – and survive without needing a shot from an EpiPen, then this fantastic.
The National Institutes of Health in the US reports that it has been trialling a wearable skin patch that delivers small amounts of peanut protein on sufferers aged four to 25 for the past 12 months.
The investigators assessed each peanut allergy at the beginning of the study, patches were developed for each participant and every day, study participants applied a new patch to their arm or between their shoulder blades.
Some participants got a high-dose patch, some a low-dose and others a placebo. At the end of 12 months, the participants were asked to consume 10 times more peanut protein than they could before the study, and their resilience was tested.
Almost half of the high and low-dose participants could tolerate the peanut protein – and interestingly, 12 per cent of the placebo group.
What researchers also found was the success rate was significantly greater in the younger age group (four to 11 years).
“The clinical benefit seen in younger children highlights the promise of this innovative approach to treating peanut allergy,” said Daniel Rotrosen, a director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
He said that the skin patches, or “epicutaneous immunotherapy”, uses the immune system in the skin to train the body to tolerate small amounts of allergen. Other recent advances in peanut allergy treatments have relied on an oral route that has been difficult for approximately 10 to 15 per cent of children and adults to tolerate.
Dr Rotrosen also said: “The high adherence to the daily peanut patch regimen suggests that the patch is easy-to-use, convenient and safe” and there were no reported serious reactions to the patch.
The study is ongoing for another 18 months.