Thanks to a British doctor, parents of children allergic to peanuts can now heave a sigh of relief. He believes a cure for such allergies could be available within the next three years.
According to Dr Andrew Clark of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, who is kicking off a 1-million-pound NHS sponsored research project on peanut allergy, the new study will help rid thousands of children of the potentially fatal disorder.
AdvertisementHe said the findings of the study could also mark the end for all food allergies.
The new study comes after a successful trial in which 23 children were given tiny doses of peanut flour every day. The dose was slowly increased and now these children can eat five or more nuts a day.
Previously these children would have been at the risk of anaphylactic shock or even death if they accidentally ate even a trace amount of peanut.
The team reported this was the first time that so-called "desensitisation treatment" had been successful.
Previous attempts at exposing children with peanut allergies to the nuts led to serious reactions.
It is believed this treatment worked because it used small doses of flour, put into yoghurt, which was eaten rather than earlier attempts that involved injecting peanut extract or oil.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Dr Clark said the Cambridge team would start the new study next month with 104 children who have already been recruited.
"This is going to be the largest trial of its kind in the world and it should give us a definitive idea of whether it works and whether it's safe," the Telegraph quoted him, as saying.
Talking about the earlier study, he said: "The families involved in this study say that it's changed their lives.
"It's dramatic. Whereas before they were checking every food label every time they ate food.
"They would worry it would cause a reaction or even kill them but now they can go out and eat curries and Chinese food and they can eat everyday snacks and treats.
"For their birthday they can have chocolate cake and chocolates without any fear of reactions.
"So that's our real motivation - to try to develop that as a clinical treatment that we could spread to the rest of the country."
Dr Clark revealed that the previous trial had been running for two years and two of the children, aged 15, had significantly reduced treatments to just five peanuts a week, yet retained their tolerance.
He said: "Our long term aim is to keep them going with weekly dosing as that might represent what you would normally eat in peanut consumption. and they feel comfortable with it."
He added: "The trial will report in three years and assuming it's successful I think we could start looking at the clinical treatment from then.
"It's likely to be a treatment that lasts at last two or three years and we hope that once that's over we can withdraw the treatment and maintain long term tolerance but we need a long term study to find out."
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