The seminal study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, was conducted over the course of two years at Sheba Medical Center and analyzed data from children ranging in age from 1 to 18 years with diagnosed peanut allergies. The study indicates that fixed-dose oral immunotherapy safely reduces sensitivity in children with high-threshold peanut allergies.
Oral immunotherapy (OIT) helps patients increase their body’s tolerance to allergens through the consumption of small quantities of the food to which they are allergic on a daily basis. Eventually, when a maintenance dose of OIT is achieved, the patient will be able to tolerate the allergen without reaction. Oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy among children can prevent severe, life-threatening allergic reactions if the child is exposed to peanuts accidentally.
Twenty-five to thirty percent of children with a diagnosed peanut allergy (PA) have a relatively high-threshold peanut allergy (HTPA), meaning they can tolerate around 100mg of peanut protein. However, this threshold can decrease over time as children get older, as well as with the influence of other factors, including exercise and sleep deprivation.
Of the 28 children with HTPA that Dr. Haj Yahia and her colleagues tested, 23 completed the study’s initial protocol and were able to begin a maintenance dose of OIT, subsequently re-incorporating foods containing peanuts into their regular diet. Patients reported one anaphylactic reaction, which was resolved quickly with epinephrine; two mild allergic reactions treated with antihistamines; and no gastrointestinal complaints. After six months on the OIT maintenance dose, the patients’ average tolerance to peanuts had increased to 8 grams.
These findings are an important breakthrough for young children with peanut allergies and their families, who often have to alter their lifestyles and take extra precautions to prevent exposure to peanuts.
As Dr. Haj Yahia continues to move forward with the study, it is her hope that the OIT protocol will soon be adopted on a larger scale for children with all allergy types.