New Experiment to Find An Allergy Vaccine
Food Allergy Research and Education, the largest private funding source for food allergy research and the leading organizing that supports people living with food allergies, were involved in a study that was published in April and provides hope that a vaccine against peanut allergies may soon be a reality. Given that the only FDA-approved approaches to food allergies are currently avoidance and inhibiting the food allergy once a reaction has started, the potential for a medical intervention that could prevent an allergic reaction when peanuts are ingested is incredibly exciting for those who deal with peanut allergies. Often one of the worst things about peanut allergies is the anxiety associated with the idea of accidental ingestion of peanuts.
The research, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, involved an ultrafine nasal spray that was tested in mice. The spray vaccine that was used offers a type of immunotherapy, which is a strategy that has become popular for combatting food allergies. Immunotherapy involves introducing people to small amounts of the substance to which they are allergic so that their immune system learns to recognize that substance as harmless and ceases to react to it. The impact of other immunotherapies on peanut allergies have been tested but have only been shown to help subsets of patients or to help patients only for a certain amount of time.
The vaccine tested in this study was made of peanut protein and a nano-emulsion. The purpose of the peanut protein is to train the immune system to handle peanuts, much like other immunotherapies. The nano-emulsion makes the vaccine different from other immunotherapies, however. Because nano-emulsions have been shown to encourage strong immune responses that seem to fight infections, the researchers reasoned that nano-emulsions could help redirect the immune system when an unnecessary immune reaction may otherwise occur in response to peanuts. In other words, the nano-emulsion may be able to distract the immune system, making it focus on other activities rather than overreact to innocuous peanut proteins.
The researchers gave mice that were induced to have peanut allergies three intranasal doses of the vaccine over a two month period. Two weeks later, these mice did not have the same allergic reaction to peanuts as those that had not undergone the vaccine treatment. The researchers are therefore hopeful that this strategy could also help those with peanut allergies and prevent reactions that could occur if they were exposed to peanuts.
Given that severe allergic reactions have increased dramatically in the past decade, enhancing the emergency care incidents by almost 400%, innovative strategies to overcome peanut allergies are certainly needed. More research will help to determine if a vaccine for peanut allergies will become a reality that can help patients.