A team of British scientists have come one step closer to curing nut allergies after a small-scale clinical trial in which they successfully built up children's tolerance to peanuts, they said Friday.
Researchers at Addenbroke's Hospital in Cambridge, eastern England, gave small daily doses of peanut flour to four children who were severely allergic to peanuts, building up the amount over time.
By the end of the trial, each child could ingest at least 10 peanuts without having any reaction, which the scientists noted was more than enough to protect against any accidental ingestion through nut-contaminated foods.
In the study, published in the journal Allergy, four children were initially given five milligrams of peanut flour mixed into yoghurt.
Over the next six months, the dose was increased every fortnight until they could tolerate at least 800 mg -- the equivalent of five whole peanuts.
The trial is ongoing and 20 children aged seven to 17 are now involved, with some able to ingest 12 peanuts a day.
However, they must maintain their tolerance by ingesting five peanuts a day, said Andrew Clark, a consultant in paediatric allergy who led the research.
"At the moment we know that if they continue to eat five peanuts a day, their tolerance is maintained. If they were to stop, then there is some evidence that tolerance would be lost and they may have a reaction," he said.
They would be monitored for the next three or four years to assess their tolerance levels, Clark said, adding that there was no reason why the clinical trial could not be extended to adults.
"For all our participants, a reaction could lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. It's not a permanent cure, but as long as they go on taking a daily dose they should maintain their tolerance," he said.
About one in 50 children in Britain are allergic to peanuts, and ingesting them can cause difficulty in breathing, cardiac arrest and even death.
The trial was sponsored by the Evelyn Trust, a Cambridge charity supporting medical research.