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Exposure to Peanuts May Build Tolerance to Allergy
Date:3/15/2009

The therapy is still experimental, and more research is needed, study says

SUNDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Exposing children with peanut allergies to a carefully administered daily oral dose of peanuts helped them build tolerance to the point where some of them appear to have lost their allergies, a new study found.

However, the researchers, from Duke University Medical Center and Arkansas Children's Hospital, cautioned that the approach is still experimental and should not be tried by parents on their own.

"This is not something to be done at home," said Dr. Wesley Burks, chief of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke and a co-author of the research. "It truly is an investigational study."

But the children in the study did build long-term tolerance, with the researchers documenting key immunologic changes reflecting a lack of allergic response.

Burks and his colleagues were expected to present their findings Sunday at the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology meeting, in Washington, D.C.

About four million American have allergies to foods, and tree nut allergies, including peanut allergies, are the most common. For the highly allergic, exposure to even a trace amount of peanuts can provoke a life-threatening reaction. Nearly half of the 150 deaths attributed to food allergies each year are caused by peanut allergies, according to background information in the study.

For the study, which began five years ago, Burks and his colleagues gave children with a history of peanut allergy gradually larger daily doses of peanut protein, while other allergic children were given a placebo. The starting doses were very small, as little as 1/1000th of a peanut. The doses increased until the children ate the equivalent of up to 15 peanuts a day about 10 months later, and then they stayed on the daily therapy while they were monitored.

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