About 1% of the U.S. population has a peanut allergy. The percentage may seem small, but since reactions can be fatal, finding a way to prevent it is becoming increasingly important. Many schools even ban peanut butter from children's bagged lunches.
That's why this news is so promising. Progress has been made in desensitizing children with peanut allergies using a form of immunotherapy - a common form is allergy shots.
For years, allergists have injected patients with tiny amounts of the allergens that bother them, be it bee stings or pollen, and their bodies have built up a tolerance for them. So when they come in contact with something they are allergic to in the future, their bodies recognize it, and their reaction is next to nothing.
Dr. Scott David Nash from Duke University conducted a study with his team. They decided to try Oral Peanut Immunotherapy. They gave 8 children with known peanut allergies, increasing doses of peanut protein in the form of a flour mixed with applesauce.
The entire test took about 2 years, beginning with trace amounts of peanuts, and working up to eating the equivalent of 1 peanut a day for the last 18 months.
At the end of the study, the 7 children (1 dropped out) who completed it were given a "food challenge" involving 8g of peanut flour, or about 13 peanuts. 5 of the 7 children passed the challenge. This study showed that their immune systems developed a growing tolerance to peanuts.
This is incredible news for people with peanut allergies. The fear they live with, worrying everyday whether or not they'll accidentally touch or eat something containing peanuts is way too agonizing. This gives them some much needed hope.