New Protein Patch Shows Promise in Treating Peanut Allergies

Around 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, with peanut allergies growing rapidly. In fact, the rate of peanut allergies among children has tripled between 1997 and 2008. Peanut allergies can range from mild, with reactions such as itchy eyes and runny noses, to severe where even a small trace of peanuts can lead to a potentially deadly reaction. With this information in mind, scientists have been moving quickly to find an effective treatment for this widespread and problematic allergy. And for the first time, there appears to be an answer.

A groundbreaking immunotherapy patch, currently in clinical trials, has shown promise as a safe and effective treatment for peanut-allergy sufferers. The patch, called Viaskin Peanut patch, contains a small amount of peanut protein – enough to illicit a reaction but not enough to trigger allergic shock. The goal is for patients’ bodies to become desensitized to their peanut enemies. Researchers wanted to find out if participants involved in the study could tolerate at minimum 10-fold as much peanut protein after the being on the patch.

The double-blind trial had 221 participants between the ages of 6 and 5 with nearly half of the group being children under the age of 12 and another large group between the ages of 12 and 17. The volunteers wore patches infused with doses of 50, 100, or 250 micrograms of peanut protein. Their protein thresholds were measured before and after, with the hope that the thresholds would be higher after their treatments.

Researchers found that 53 percent of participants aged 6 to 11 responded to the protein patch, versus less than 20 percent who had a response to a placebo treatment. One of the most significant findings was that none of the volunteers required epinephrine injections during their trials, meaning that the patches are safe. The results are very promising, and indicate that a new life-saving treatment could be only a few short years away. The patch will still need to undergo further clinical trials before the FDA will consider approving it, but if the results are successful the patch could be on the market within three years.

With millions of Americans suffering from peanut allergies, the clinical trials are an exciting look at the future of treatment. It is hoped that the protein patch will be available soon, and that the science behind it will continue to develop. With this, food allergies could potentially be eliminated, allowing millions of people to rest and eat easy.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Kate Ter Haar