How We’re Closer Than Ever To A Cure For Peanut Allergies
A new study, published by an Australian team in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, has shown that an immune-based therapy has successfully allowed children who are allergic to peanuts eat peanuts for four years without experiencing reactions. The rationale for immune-based therapies is to expose children to small doses of peanut to treat their immune systems to learn that the foreign substance is not harmful and therefore to stop reacting to it as if it were threatening.
The children studied in the new research report had been enrolled in a previous study where they received a combination of probiotics and small peanut doses. Probiotics were used as a way to enable the gut to have a higher tolerance for peanuts. In this initial study, 82% of the children who received this combination therapy experienced a significant reduction in their allergic reactions to peanuts.
The new study is a follow-up study that tracks the children from the initial study four years later. According to the researchers, 67% of the children who had received the combination therapy are still comfortable eating peanuts. When tested for peanut allergy, fewer children who had received the combination therapy demonstrated allergic symptoms compared to the children who did not receive this therapy.
One criticism of this set of studies is that the scientists only compared the outcome of the allergen/probiotic combination therapy to the outcomes associated with no therapy at all. The limitation of this design is that it limits the researchers’ ability to evaluate the impact of the probiotics.
While a number of studies have shown that exposing children to allergens can improve their tolerance for that allergen. However, the evidence for the impact of probiotics on allergies is not nearly as robust. Had the researchers compared the effects of the combination therapy to those from the immune therapy alone, it would be clearer whether probiotics are beneficial in peanut allergies. Treating one group with only probiotics may make the relationship between probiotics and peanut allergies even more clear. Future research can help to clarify the importance of probiotics in fighting peanut allergies and how and why combining probiotics with immune-based therapies may enhance the benefits of immune-based therapies.