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Monday, May 5, 2008

Peanut Allergy 'Gone' In 5 Years? ... not likely

Last week Dr. Wesley Burks was quoted as saying that immunotherapy could help peanut allergic patients by increasing their tolerance to peanuts.

In 2007, Dr. Burks' team at Duke University reported that "five of seven children with severe peanut allergy were able, after two years of immunotherapy, to tolerate a dose of 7.8 grams of peanut flour, equivalent to eating more than 13 peanuts ". Last week Dr. Burks noted that "these studies offer the possibility of at least raising the threshold of the amount of peanut that it would take to cause a life-threatening allergic reaction; whether these types of treatments are likely to cause eventual clinical tolerance to develop remains to be seen."

The media has run with this story under headlines such as "Peanut Allergy Gone in Five Years?" or "Allergy Expert Says Expect Cure For Peanut Allergy In Five Years".

While tolerance to 10+ peanuts would absolutely make peanut allergic children safer, and likely prevent fatalities, these headlines are misleading and will raise false expectations with parents of allergic children. When I first saw the headlines I couldn't click through to the story fast enough!

These studies are important and we are actually exploring peanut immunotherapy for our daughter, as it reduces the risk of exposure to a small amount of the allergen. The difference between a fraction of a peanut and 13 peanuts is significant when a child has severe peanut allergy and anaphylaxis.

That being said, while immunotherapy holds great promise as a treatment, it is not a complete 'cure' for peanut allergy and I cannot imagine that peanut allergy will 'gone' in five years.


Growing in Grace (Nicole) said...

We do this treatment. We have been for almost 6 years. My son's allergy is not gone by any means. His RAST tests still show a strong allergy, although he hasn't had a single reaction since the very first one.

Gabs said...

I agree - his comments have been misconstrued.

I would be SO happy to have the immunotherapy available to my daughter though. I wouldn't have to worry (as much, and for different reasons) about her first kiss for instance. If she still had to stay away from nuts, fine, but knowing that she'd be protected to some degree from cross contamination would be so nice.