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Potential new treatment for peanut allergies

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A promising new method has just been tested for the first time in those with extreme peanut allergies — and it appears to hold potential as a permanent cure.

In a small study involving 13 children at high risk for having severe allergic reactions to peanuts, Boston Children’s Hospital researchers first administered an injectable asthma drug every few weeks for 12 weeks, before having the children eat peanuts, in order to dampen their immune system’s response to peanut protein. The children continued to receive the drug — called omalizumab — for another eight weeks as they gradually ate an increasing number of peanuts.

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Twelve of the children were eventually able to eat the equivalent of 10 peanuts a day even after they went off the drug, according to the findings published in the December issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Most did, however, experience allergic reactions during the first few weeks before their immune systems became desensitized to the peanut protein. Five children had moderate allergic reactions such as wheezing and nausea and two children had more severe reactions like a full-blown asthma attack. One child dropped out of the study.

“An important goal is to prevent life-threatening allergic reactions in those who eat peanuts accidentally,” said study leader Dr. Lynda Schneider, of Boston Children’s Hospital.

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