When the researchers tracked immunologic changes -- specifically levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin E, which the body makes in response to allergens -- they found the levels had declined to nearly nothing at the end of the trial.
"I think what has been shown in this [research] is that the threshold [at which allergic reactions begin] really can change with treatment," Burks said.
Changing the threshold is valuable, he said, because it could mean that if a child with a peanut allergy accidentally ate something with peanut in it, he may have no reaction. "If you do that alone, you give the family comfort," he said.
Still to be answered is whether doctors can "make the disease go away," Burks said, adding that his research will continue.
The concept of exposing an allergic person to small amounts of the allergen isn't new, of course, said Dr. Scott Sicherer, associate professor of pediatrics and chief of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
That's the idea behind allergy shots.
"I think this [Duke-Arkansas] is very promising, the results," added Sicherer, who's also chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Section on Allergy and Immunology.
Funding for the study was provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, the Food Allergy Project, the Gerber Foundation and the Robins Family Foundation.
To learn more about food allergies, visit the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
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