Scientists 'cure' peanut allergy in children after 18-months of probiotic treatment

Image iStock

Image iStock

A follow up study of an oral peanut allergy treatment found that efficacy was sustained for a follow-up period of 4 years, the longest time such a treatment has been shown to be effective for.

Four years after the treatment, two-thirds of the group undergoing immunotherapy showed no adverse reactions to peanuts when consumed, while only one in the placebo group had no problems.

Astonishingly, their desensitisation to peanuts persisted for up to four years after treatment.

In the worst-case scenario, peanut allergies can cause anaphylaxis, which can kill. It involves children being given a combination of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a bacteria commonly found in healthy female genital tracts and yogurt and dairy products, and a peanut protein.

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Two hundred children are now set to be treated under an expanded trial. Eighty percent of them were eating peanuts as part of their normal diet - and 70 percent passed laboratory tests confirming their long-term tolerance.

The research out of Australia's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute involved 48 children, some of whom were given an immunotherapy treatment and some of whom got a placebo.

Prof Mimi Tang, the lead researcher on the study, told BBC it is especially important to note that the children largely remained tolerant to peanuts regardless of the frequency with which they ate them.

The probiotic works by changing the way the body's immune system reacts to an allergen with the aim of building up a tolerance over time.

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Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of anaphylaxis, a reaction of intolerance potentially fatal.

"The probiotic acts on the immune system, encourages the immune system to generate a protective, or tolerance, response rather than allergy", Professor Tang explained.

"The importance of this discovery is that these children can eat peanuts as those who have no peanut allergy", said Mimi Tang, lead researcher of the study.

"This treatment has the potential to help people with all kinds of food allergies, not just peanuts".

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As with any study, the findings still need to be confirmed in larger trials before steps are taken to introduce a product to the general product.

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