Many parents likely got excited recently when they read about a possible cure for peanut allergies.
Peanut allergy could be cured with probiotics
Medical News Today
While these types of treatments are called cures by some people, what they do is desensitize you to peanuts, so that if you have a reaction, it is less severe. Some don’t have reactions anymore though. Probiotics were just part of the ‘cure’ though. They were paired with oral immunotherapy.
Is There a Cure for Peanut Allergies?
So is there really is a cure for peanut allergies?
I’m guessing it doesn’t matter if you call it a cure or a treatment if you have a child with a severe peanut allergy, you really just want to know if it is available for your child, right?
And again, there isn’t a simple answer.
Although it does seem like they are being used more and more, many of these treatments are still being tested, so they likely aren’t available everywhere, or in some cases, anywhere outside of a trial.
Among the treatments for peanut allergies, besides avoidance and treating anaphylactic reactions with epinephrine, you some day soon might be able to get your child with peanut allergies:
- a wearable skin patch to provide epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT) – in phase III studies
- a pill to provide orally administered biologic immunotherapy – in phase III studies
- oral immunotherapy with Xolair (FASTX) – in phase II studies
- a combination of probiotics with peanut oral immunotherapy (PPOIT)
- sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) – in phase III studies
- a vaccine – in early phase I studies
How do these treatments work?
The patch is the easiest to explain. Kids simply apply a new patch that contains peanut protein on their skin each day.
Oral immunotherapy is similar, kids are exposed to peanut protein, but unlike the patch, the dose is steadily increased each day, until you read a maintenance dose, that you continue eating each day. Most of these treatments use some variation of the characterized oral desensitization immunotherapy (CODIT) method to control and maintain desensitization.
And these treatments are not just for peanuts. Similar studies are being done for eggs and milk. And theoretically, they can be done for anything that can trigger an IgE-mediated allergic reaction, from foods and medicines to environmental allergens.
The downside? In addition to side effects, in most cases, you have to continue eating the thing you are allergic to every day, otherwise your allergy might return.
So, Is There a Cure for Peanut Allergies?
While many of these treatments are promising, they are not ready for regular use in every doctor’s office.
“The aim of OIT is to administer a food allergen slowly, in small but steadily increasing doses, until the patient stops reacting to the food (termed becoming desensitized to the food). OIT studies have shown promising results, though adverse reactions are frequent and may cause significant side effects like abdominal pain, wheezing and/or diarrhea. Published data from placebo-controlled trials have shown that only 50 to 70 percent of patients attempting OIT complete desensitization, with the failures primarily due to side effects. Also, there currently are no standardized protocols or foods used in OIT and no FDA approved approach that could allow insurance to reimburse for this therapy. Thus, there are challenges with the current practice of OIT.”
FARE Statement on Oral Immunotherapy for Food Allergies
That doesn’t mean that you can’t get some of these treatments right now or overcome those challenges.
Just keep in mind that “An allergist doing OIT for patients in a private practice develops his/her own individualized protocols and uses his/her unique food preparation.”
If your child’s food allergy has led to severe stress and anxiety for your family, that might not matter though. You probably don’t want to wait anymore if there is a chance at reducing your child’s chance of having a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.
Still, find a pediatric allergist who has a lot of experience doing private practice OIT.
On the other hand, if you are fine refilling your child’s epi-pens every year and working hard to avoid peanuts, then maybe wait until the jury comes in and we get an official recommendation and more standardized treatments become more widely available.
What Else Should You Be Doing About Food Allergies?
If you don’t do private practice OIT, then in addition to strictly avoiding the things to which your child is allergic and making sure that an epi-pen is always readily available, the latest guidelines recommend that your child have:
- annual testing if they have a milk, egg, soy, or wheat allergy
- testing every two to three years if they have a peanut, tree nut, fish, or shellfish allergy
Kids do sometimes outgrow their allergies, especially if the allergy isn’t to peanuts or tree nuts. And even for peanuts, about 20% of kids have a chance of outgrowing their allergy.
Also remember that it is now recommended that infants at high risk for peanut allergies, especially those with eczema, have an early introduction of peanut proteins, sometimes as early as four months of age.
Hopefully that will help decrease the number of kids who need these kinds of treatments in the future.
What to Know About Treating Peanut Allergies
Oral immunotherapy and some other treatments are providing new options to help kids with severe food allergies avoid life-threatening reactions.
More About Treating Peanut Allergies
- OIT Success Stories
- Life with Food Allergies
- Who is Likely to Outgrow a Food Allergy?
- Living with Anaphylaxis: Handling the Stress
- Unproven Diagnostic Tests
- Report from AAAAI: Recent Findings in Peanut Immunotherapy
- Peanut Oral Immunotherapy: Is It Ready for Clinical Practice?
- Is OIT Ready for Private Practice? – Three Perspectives
- I can eat it. Taking a bite out of food allergies
- Controversial Treatment Ends Food Allergies
- Our Peanut Desensitization Clinical Results
- Peanut Allergy Treatment Continues To Be Success
- Millions in the U.S. impacted by food allergies, but a cure may be on the horizon
- The Future of Food Allergy: Developing New Treatments
- Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States
- Oral Immunotherapy for Peanut Allergy: Is It Time?
- Omalizumab (Xolair) Facilitates Rapid Oral Desensitization for Peanut Allergy
- Oral Food Challenge
- Study – Impact of peanut allergy on quality of life, stress and anxiety in the family.
- Study – The psychosocial impact of food allergy and food hypersensitivity in children, adolescents and their families: a review
- Study – Long-term clinical and immunological effects of probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy after treatment cessation: 4-year follow-up of a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
- Report – Oral immunotherapy for peanut allergy in clinical practice is ready.
Last Updated on October 4, 2017 by Vincent Iannelli, MD