Helping children with peanut allergies

(Southern Health News, June 2017)

New study helps treat peanut allergies from the comfort of home

Peanut allergies affect as many as three per cent of Australian infants and only 20 per cent of them will outgrow their allergy.

Thankfully, a collaborative study between Flinders University and Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) researchers is working on a way to treat peanut allergies in children from the comfort of their own homes.

“All other studies rely on hospitals to supervise treatments, because of the risks involved,” Dr Billy Tao said.

“We are focused on finding the safest way to desensitise children with peanut allergies inside their own homes with minimal supervision from doctors, and by doing so keep them out of hospitals,” he said.

Desensitisation or immunotherapy is a method that gradually increases the tolerance level of allergic people to an allergen.

This study aims to desensitise children with peanut allergies in three steps over 52 weeks through oral immunotherapy – meaning participants are given specially boiled peanuts to eat first, before progressing to roasted peanuts by the end of the trial.

By boiling peanuts for an extended period of time rather than roasting them, the proteins that trigger allergic reactions are reduced. The boiled peanuts are then tested to ensure they contain the correct low amount of allergens.

“We want to make desensitisation easier and safer,” Dr Tao said.

As part of Step 1, selected participants will be given peanuts that have been boiled for 12 hours over a period of 12 weeks. Step 2 involves consuming peanuts that have been boiled for two hours over 20 weeks while at Step 3, participants consume increasing doses of roasted peanuts over twenty weeks.

The team comprises researchers from Flinders Proteomics Facility and the Department of Paediatrics with support from the Biomedical Engineering Unit.

According to Dr Tim Chataway, head of the Flinders Proteomics Facility, the study would not have been possible without the collaborative culture that exists between FMC and Flinders University.

“Flinders Medical Centre has a “can do” attitude that has persisted over the past forty years.

“This research would not have been possible without the facilities that we have here under one roof,” he said.

The study has been funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation.

Are you interested in being involved in this study?


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