Peanut allergies are a fact of life for many children and adults, but a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine claims to have a clue to preventing peanut allergies before they start. The above New York Times article summarizes the study’s finding: infants fed small amounts of peanut proteins developed fewer serious allergies to peanuts compared to infants who did not eat peanut proteins. This trial is the first of its kind for peanuts and shows that feeding peanut proteins from a very young age can prevent the development of allergies.
Unfortunately, the NY Times article glosses over one potential pitfall to the study: other desensitization studies, in which patients are fed or exposed to small amounts of allergens, have demonstrated that allergies quickly develop after the end of the study. This means that in order to provide long-term protection, patients have to constantly be exposed to potentially life-threatening allergens. While such treatment may provide protection, it is unclear whether patients will be willing to commit to such a regimen. The study directors do suggest that they will follow the study participants for one year to determine if their exposure study has provided long-term protection.
For the article upon which the press release was based see below:
Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy.
Special thanks to Lindsay Theodore, from the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program at Harvard University. Edited by SITN Waves Lead Editor Adam Brown.