Speciality: Biochemistry Biomedical Scientist
Location: East Of England
Location: East Midlands
Speciality: Research Scientist
Location: Beds and Herts
New studies have found that peanut allergies can be beaten through a process of gradually building up tolerance, in a breakthrough that could save lives.
The Palisade study - an international collaboration involving children from the US and Europe - examined how giving children very small doses of peanuts and slowly increasing the amount could build up tolerance over time.
At the start, none of the 500 patients - whose ages ranged from four to 17 - could tolerate even a tenth of a peanut dose.
However, after taking miniscule dose of peanuts every day for a year, two-thirds of those studied developed the ability to tolerate at least two entire peanuts, a 600 mg dose. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Among the patients to have seen the benefits in the trail was Emily Pratt, a six-year-old from London who told the BBC Today programme: "I couldn't have a birthday cake at parties and now I can." Her tolerance has risen to seven peanuts, meaning she can consume a range of foods even if they contain traces of the nut.
Professor George du Toit, a consultant at Evelina London Children's Hospital, said: "The results of this ground-breaking study are very promising and suggest that we will be able to protect children who are allergic to peanuts from having a severe reaction after accidental exposure."
He added this was particularly good news as the number of children with a peanut allergy has doubled in the last 20 years, he noted. It now affects around one in 50 children in the UK.
Professor du Toit concluded: "Families live in fear of accidental exposure as allergic reactions can be very severe and can even lead to death."
The issue of food allergies has been a high profile topic of late, following the death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse on a flight from Heathrow to Nice after eating a Pret a Manger sandwich. The packaging had not listed a crucial ingredient that caused a fatal reaction.
Environment secretary Michael Gove, who met with the parents of the 15-year-old, has pledged to introduce stricter laws on the labelling of allergens in food.
Written by Martin Lambert
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