An experimental, but very risky, procedure may be the key to curing peanut allergies.
Duke University’s pediatric allergy and immunology division chief
Wesley Burks, M.D., Duke University’s pediatric allergy and immunology division chief used a process called oral immunotherapy in the experiment, WebMD reports. The procedure actually exposes patients to the very food they’re allergic to.
Doctors had nine children with peanut allergies swallow tiny amounts of the peanut protein. After two and a half years, five of those kids no longer show symptoms of an allergic reaction no matter how many peanuts they eat.
Wesley said those kids seem to have outgrown their allergy because they don’t wheeze, break out in hives, or show any other signs of adverse reaction to peanuts. He reported those results at a meeting of the American Academy of Asthma and Immunology this week in Washington.
The four remaining children still need to be monitored.
This could be good news for people with this potentially fatally allergy. Wesley said that half of all deaths resulting from a food allergy are caused by peanuts.
Wesley thinks oral immunotherapy could become a standard practice in the next few years. However, Robert Wood, M.D., director of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, disagrees with that view.
"The studies are encouraging, and some patients have been desensitized to peanuts. But whether that translates into long-term tolerance remains to be seen,” Robert said. “FDA approval [of oral immunotherapy] is at least a decade away."
Researchers warn against parents trying this risky procedure at home. Doctors also advise against people with other food allergies trying the same procedure.
– Sonya Eskridge