A Peanut Allergy Cure Could Be on the Horizon

peanut allergy, peanuts, peanut butter

If you’re the parent of a child with a peanut allergy, you know firsthand what a scary, potentially life-threatening condition it is.

Well, now there may be hope for a cure.

A promising new study on children with peanut allergies shows that there might actually be a way to eliminate their adverse reaction to nuts.

Doctors at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, gave about 30 kids allergic to peanuts a daily dose of peanut protein coupled with a probiotic for a year-and-a-half and another 30 children a placebo. At the end of the 18-month period, 80 percent of the kids getting the protein with the probiotic could eat peanuts without having any allergic reaction whatsoever, according to the study published in January in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, while less than 4 percent of those in the placebo group were able to tolerate peanuts.

“Many of the children and families believe it has changed their lives, they’re very happy, they feel relieved,” lead researcher Mimi Tang told the UK’s Guardian. “These findings provide the first vital step towards developing a cure for peanut allergy and possibly other food allergies.”

The researchers gave the children a combination of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus and peanut protein in increasing amounts over the course of the 18-month study. They consumed the equivalent of 20 kg — or 44 pounds — of yogurt a day, which is why this is not a study that should be replicated as an at-home treatment by parents of kids with nut allergies.

“Some families might be thinking about [trying] this at home and we would strongly advise against this,” Tang told the Guardian. “In our trial some children did experience allergic reactions, sometimes serious reactions. For the moment this treatment can only be taken under the supervision of doctors as part of a clinical trial.”

More research is planned to see if the patients involved in the study can still eat peanuts without an allergic reaction in the future.

“We will be conducting a follow-up study where we ask children to take peanut back out of their diet for eight weeks and test them if they’re tolerant after that,” Tang explained.

Peanut allergies are usually lifelong and can be deadly. About 15 million people in the United States and 1 in 13 children — or about 2 in every classroom — have food allergies, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education group (FARE), many of them peanut or other nut allergies. To date, there has been no known cure.