Although people with peanut allergy shy away from even trace amounts, new research at Duke University Medical Center is working on the premise that the cure may be in the peanut itself.
"It takes as little as 1/100th of a peanut to cause a life threatening reaction," CBS News quoted Dr. Wesley Burks of Duke University Medical Center as saying.
AdvertisementBut the Duke researchers' experimental treatment, called "oral immunotherapy," uses peanuts to build up tolerance.
Starting out with a minute dose of peanut powder-the equivalent of 1/1000th of a peanut-study participants eat it with food on a daily basis.
"They build up to a higher dose and that goes on for about 6 to 8 months and then at a certain point their immune system begins to change so that they're no longer having reactions," said Burks.
In one study, 75 percent of children with peanut allergies who ate increasing amounts of peanut protein daily for 3 to 5 years can now eat unlimited amounts of peanuts.
In a separate year-long study,16 children on treatment could tolerate 15 peanuts before developing symptoms - providing a potentially lifesaving buffer of protection.
While the results are encouraging, there are no guarantees the allergy is gone for good.
"We don't know long term if it really will make it go away. And that's where the studies are really concentrated on right now," said Burks.
While the concept sounds simple enough, experts warn it should not be tried at home.
Researchers say this type of therapy goes beyond peanuts: the same approach currently being tested for allergies to milk and, eggs.