Parents of children with peanut allergies were dealt a blow with the rise in price of lifesaving EpiPen injectors over the past few years, but there's reason to celebrate in the food allergy world thanks to early findings tied to a skin patch used to introduce the nut to allergic kids. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) sponsored a study testing a "Peanut Patch," which administers small amounts of peanut protein through the skin to help train individuals' immune systems to tolerate small amounts of peanuts.
"To avoid potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, people with peanut allergy must be vigilant about the foods they eat and the environments they enter, which can be very stressful," said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID Director. "One goal of experimental approaches such as epicutaneous immunotherapy is to reduce this burden by training the immune system to tolerate enough peanut to protect against accidental ingestion or exposure."
The Viaskin Peanut Patch is the immunotherapy technology used in the study, which looked at 74 randomly assigned volunteers, aged 4 through 25, all allergic to peanuts. Researchers gave the participants either a low-dose, high-dose, or placebo patch to wear, and monitored the results over a year. Although the patch, made by DBV Technologies, is not yet FDA approved, the results were impressive.
Image Source: DBV Technologies
According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, after a year of monitoring volunteers, almost 50 percent of people given both the high and low-dose patches were able to consume at least 10 times more peanut protein than before they started the study. In fact, the most improvement was seen in children ages 4 through 11. Researchers will continue to monitor participants of the study for another year, but this is hopeful news for families living with peanut allergies, proving that it may be possible to strengthen the immune system in a child's early years of development.