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Novel two-step desensitisation process to alleviate peanut allergy in children

Posted:  Monday, November 09, 2015

Traditional cooking methods are the way to go after all! Emerging research shows that children can overcome peanut allergy through a desensitisation process involving exposure to boiled and roasted peanuts.

Inspired by the observation that peanut allergies were less prevalent in China than the western world as the Chinese consumed boiled peanuts, Dr Billy Tao, a paediatric allergist, in association with Dr. Tim Chataway, Head of the Flinders Proteomics Facility, and Professor Kevin Forsyth from the Flinders Medical Centre Paediatrics Department, established that peanuts boiled for at least 2 hours were less allergenic.

The trio went on to devise a low-cost and effective two-step desensitisation process which enables children suffering with peanut allergy to improve their tolerance. Further, they designed a study using this approach, which spans for over a year and involves 14 subjects aged 10–15 years.

The first step of the desensitisation process involves boiling peanuts for an extended period of time which renders them less allergenic. These nuts are then provided to the children for partial desensitisation. Once the children show no signs of allergic reaction, they are provided with roasted peanuts. This constitutes Step 2 of the process.

The novel 2-step process has demonstrated less adverse reactions than the traditional desensitisation methods called oral immunotherapy. Currently, 10 of the 14 subjects in the study have completed the first phase of desensitisation and are able to consume varying amounts of roasted peanuts. The remaining subjects continue to consume boiled peanuts and are progressing well.

Describing the study results, Dr Tao said, "One patient who had to be administered three adrenaline injections after consuming peanuts is now eating several roasted peanuts every day without problems."

The researchers hope that this simple 2-step process can soon be rolled out to clinics and homes to avoid hospital-based treatment. Nevertheless, Dr Tao issued a word of caution that this process must not be tried at home and it is always better to consult an allergist for individual care plans.

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