New therapy for peanut allergy

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Berlin researchers have developed a new therapy that can help with a peanut allergy.

(Aug 19, 2010) Scientists at the Charité in Berlin have apparently managed to develop a suitable therapy for peanut allergy. Around one percent of children in Germany suffer from a peanut allergy, and the trend is rising. In the United States, it is estimated that around 1.5 million people are affected by a peanut allergy. And even up to 100 people die each year from the consequences of an allergic shock.

The peanut is considered the main trigger for food allergies. The fatal thing for the affected patients is that there are always traces of nuts in numerous ready-made foods. In everyday life, those affected must read the packaging instructions very carefully in order not to risk an allergy spurt. The nut traces are often not listed and allergy sufferers risk an unwanted intake of the nuts. Breakfast cereals and cornflakes are still particularly dangerous.

Scientists at the Charité in Berlin have now successfully developed immunotherapy for children with peanut allergy. The research results were published in the medical journal "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology".

The team around the director of studies Dr. Kirsten Beyer from the clinic developed a special immunotherapy for children with peanut allergy. A total of 23 children aged 3 to 14 participated in the pilot project. For several months, the children received minimal peanut additives mixed in with their daily food intake. In the first period, the test subjects were given ten milligrams of peanuts. If the children tolerated the dose, the dose was increased to 500 milligrams over a period of months under medical supervision. 500 milligrams is a whole peanut.

The results are impressive, more than half of the children (60 percent) became desensitized after seven months and developed a tolerance to the targeted peanut dose. Since then, the children eat a peanut every day. "If allergy sufferers can tolerate a small amount of peanuts, they are much better protected against allergic shock if accidentally consumed," explains Dr. Little flowers.

Peanut allergy is the most dangerous of all food allergies. So far, desensitization, such as that used for hay fever, has not been feasible. Because even the smallest amounts of peanut protein that had to be injected could trigger severe allergic reactions in those affected. An allergic reaction to peanuts doesn't just cause rashes or mild asthma. In the event of an allergic shock, blood pressure drops dangerously, the airways are narrowed, making breathing extremely difficult for patients. The reaction can lead to anaphylactic shock, which can also be fatal. Patients with peanut allergies therefore usually carry an injectable form of "epinephrine" with them. Patients must go to a hospital immediately in the event of a shock, since the active substance "epinephrine" only widens the airways for 20 minutes. (sb)

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Lizzy Tewordt /

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Video: First Treatment To Prevent Serious Peanut Allergy Reactions May Be On The Way. NBC Nightly News

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