Study shows new peanut allergy treatment works

18 March 2011

Dr Andrew Clark with a jar of crushed peanuts

Dr Andrew Clark

Allergy experts at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge have convincing evidence that peanut desensitisation works following a three-year long research programme.


Dr Andrew Clark, who led the clinical trial, said: “This is the first time that a peanut allergy study has shown such a high level of success and proves that it is possible for peanut allergic patients to eat peanuts without fear of a severe reaction.”


Following on from a small clinical trial in 2009 which confirmed that they were on to something the allergy team carried out a more in-depth trial involving 22 children.


The children and teenagers attended the hospital’s clinical research facility to undergo desensitisation treatment through a careful regime of gradually increasing doses of peanut given by mouth. The treatment still proved effective six months on.


Dr Andrew Clark continued: “Peanut allergy is common, affecting 1-2% of young children. It can cause severe or even fatal reactions. There is no satisfactory treatment and the diagnosis has a major impact on families, because of the fear of a severe reaction and anxiety in making food choices.


“Before treatment children reacted to tiny amounts of peanut. After treatment, 19 of 22 children were able to eat 5 peanuts a day; 2 had partial success – eating 2-3 peanuts a day; and one dropped out of the study at the start.


“The lives of the families involved in this trial have been transformed. The amount of peanut that could be tolerated by the children and teenagers on this trial increased 1000-fold.”


Studies of peanut immunotherapy from other centres, using different regimes have been less successful. The Cambridge regime involves more gradual increases in dose but eventually a much higher dose of peanut is tolerated.


The findings of this clinical trial are being published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy on Friday 18 March 2011 – Efficacy and safety of high-dose peanut oral immunotherapy with factors predicting outcome.


Dr Clark and his team are no longer recruiting to the trial but are working on the next stage of the programme which is to work out how this can become a widely available treatment.


This work was supported by a grant from the Evelyn Trust and further work is supported by the National institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Cambridge Enterprise.


“This treatment could drastically improve the lives of those currently suffering with severe peanut allergies,” said Dr Maher Khaled of Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation group. “We are currently looking to make this groundbreaking treatment more widely available.”




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