National Institute of Health Research

Study of peanut allergy therapy shows 85 percent success

30 January 2014

A new therapy for peanut allergy has been successful in 85 per cent of children who took part in a trial funded by the MRC-NIHR Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation (EME) Programme.  The trial is the first EME project to be published with the results appearing in The Lancet today.

The research, conducted by researchers at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, involved the young people, aged between seven and fifteen, eating daily doses of peanut protein. Starting with a tiny dose and slowly building up over four to six months, the majority trained their bodies to tolerate the equivalent of five whole peanuts a day. Peanut allergy affects around half a million people in the UK and over 10 million people across the globe. Unlike other childhood food allergies like cow’s milk, peanut allergy rarely goes away.

Peanut allergy affects one in fifty children and is the most common cause of fatal food allergy reactions. Previously the 104 children who took part in the trial would have risked anaphylactic shock or even death if they became accidentally exposed to peanut. The fear of accidental exposure in food reduced their quality of life and severely limited the social habits of the children themselves, their families and even their friends.

Allergy experts found that the majority of children treated with this new form of immunotherapy could eat at least five peanuts a day.

The Cambridge allergy research team, led by Dr Andrew Clark and Dr Pamela Ewan, are world-renowned and have been leading allergy research for more than 20 years.

Dr Andrew Clark said: “Before treatment children and their parents would check every food label and avoiding eating out in restaurants. Now most of the patients in the trial can safely eat at least five whole peanuts. The families involved in this study say that it has changed their lives dramatically.”

Dr Pamela Ewan added: “This large study is the first of its kind in the world to have had such a good outcome, and is an important advance in peanut allergy research.”

The project was carried out over three and a half years in the NIHR Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility at Addenbrooke’s, part of Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH). It was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and managed by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) on behalf of the MRC-NIHR partnership. An initial two year pilot work was funded by the Evelyn Trust, Cambridge.

For more information on the trial please visit the project page or to read the published article please visit The Lancet.


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