Kids who have daily capsules of peanut flour might be able to desensitize themselves from the potentially deadly consequences of a peanut allergy—going against the first instinct of avoiding peanuts altogether in the case of intolerance.
California-based Aimmune Therapeutics made the announcement in a press release for their Phase 3 PALISADE efficacy trial, which will pave the way for the company's drug to apply for approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Peanut allergies are one of the most common food sensitivities in America, found in many foods beyond its nut form as a flour or oil. Peanut allergies can lead to anaphylactic shock with symptoms ranging from rashes, vomiting, nausea, and in severe cases, asphyxiation. These effects are often compounded in children, who are exposed to allergens in classrooms and are often unable to decode nutritional labels to figure out if a food has peanuts or not.
The company treated 496 children suffering from severe peanut allergies between the ages of four and 17. At the beginning of the trial, the researchers found that one-tenth of a single peanut was enough to instigate the typical anaphylactic shock response patients might have with a severe peanut allergy—rash, vomiting, nausea, and in severe cases, asphyxiation.
But exposing the children to smaller amounts seemed to ease these symptoms. For six months, 372 of the patients mixed an increasing amount of the peanut flour capsule into their food; for the remaining six months, the kids consumed the maximum amount. The other participants, meanwhile, got a placebo.
The results were remarkable: About two-thirds of participants could tolerate the equivalent of two peanuts, in some cases, even a nibble of a peanut butter sandwich. By contrast, only four percent of the placebo group could tolerate that amount.
Aimmune Therapeutics' "exposure therapy" strategy to combatting peanut allergies follows research in recent years that suggests doing so is the most effective way for kids to withstand peanuts. In 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics released recommendations for healthcare providers of infants below the age of one to have creamy peanut butter, particularly if they showed signs of exzema or egg intolerances. By age four, the AAP recommended graduating kids to peanuts in their raw nut form. A study by the National Institute of Health and published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that following such recommendations could prevent developing peanut allergies in the first place by an astounding 81 percent.
The results of the study have not been independently reviewed by medical experts. Aimmune Therapeutics hopes to file for FDA approval by the end of this year.