Researchers have developed a drug that may have "potentially life-saving properties" for children who suffer from peanut allergies. The drug won't cure peanut allergies in children, but rather decrease the chances that accidentally ingesting peanuts will lead to a life-threatening allergic reaction, according to a report from The New York Times.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology presented its findings from a year-long clinical trial, during which researchers attempted to reduce sensitivity to peanuts by "exposing [children] to peanut protein over the course of six months." The treatment was highly effective: After six months, two thirds of children who took part in the study were able to eat around 600 milligrams of peanut protein (that's about about two peanuts) without experiencing any type of allergic reaction.
The result is that a new oral medication may soon be approved which will likely ensure that if a child accidentally eats one or two peanuts, she won't experience anaphylaxis, otherwise known as an "acute allergic reaction." This is no miracle drug, though: 14 percent of children who took part in the study had to withdraw because of adverse side effects from the treatment.
Though only one in 50 American children suffer from peanut allergies, doctors believe the affliction causes more allergic reaction-related deaths than any other food. A drug that alleviates the symptoms of these reactions might give parents some very welcome relief from the anxiety of having to diligently watch everything their children eat from school lunches to birthday cake.
However, parents shouldn't attempt to reproduce the regimen used in the study at home, according to experts who spoke with the Times. The treatment won't erase peanut allergies altogether, but it's a "good first step," as Dr. James R. Baker Jr., chief medical officer of Food Allergy Research & Education put it.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the new drug is that it will give parents and children who constantly "living in fear," some solace, says Dr. Michael Perkin, who treats pediatric allergies at the University of London. If treatment does become available to the public, children who might have felt isolated or sheltered because of a peanut allergy will have more freedom to enjoy a worry-free childhood.