Food allergies are steadily on the rise. There’s a lot of speculation as to why with a lot of varying answers, but up until now your best bet was to stay away from the offending ingredient and carry an EpiPen if you suffered from them. While we’ve all heard stories of people having allergic reactions that include swollen faces, itching and bee-stung lips, the outcome can be a lot more drastic for a fair number of people with what would be termed severe allergic reactions that tragically include death. Hopefully, that’s beginning to change with a new transdermal patch that is showing a lot of promise for sufferers of peanut allergies.
Allergies to Nuts
As stated above, up until now the only recourse anybody with nut allergies had was to eat at home, remain ever vigilant and carry an EpiPen or risk losing their lives. Thanks to the National Institutes of Health, a very promising transdermal patch is on the horizon that appears to work similarly to a vaccine or inoculation by delivering extremely low doses of the allergen in question in order to build a tolerance to it. After a year-long trial involving the participation of 74 volunteers, researchers noted a marked improvement in tolerance. Participants placed the small patch each day to either their arm or between their shoulder blades. These patches contained varying levels of peanut proteins or a placebo. The highest dose contained 250 micrograms, where the lower dose was 100 micrograms.
Food Allergy Studies
At the conclusion of the study, volunteers were able to eat at least 10 times the amount of peanut protein before triggering an allergic response as they were before they embarked on the study. Of the members in the low-dose group, 46 percent of them reported benefits as compared to the high-dose group at 48 percent. The experiment also noted that 12 percent of the placebo group reported improvement in tolerance in consumption levels as well. It should be pointed out that most of the study participants were very young, and interestingly enough the greatest benefits were experienced by kids in the 4 to 11 age group as compared to the 12 and up participants, who saw less improvement.
Clinical Benefits to Allergy Sufferers
According to Dr. Daniel Rotrosen, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation, “The clinical benefit seen in younger children highlights the promise of this innovative approach to treating peanut allergy.” He went on to say, “Epicutaneous immunotherapy aims to engage the immune system in the skin to train the body to tolerate small amounts of allergen, whereas other recent advances have relied on an oral route that appears difficult for approximately 10 to 15 percent of children and adults to tolerate.” This advance could mean the difference between someone coming into contact with even trace amounts and dying or surviving.
Further Research into Food Allergies
Researchers were pleased with the data revealing just how easy the patch was to use and the fact that most participants had no problem sticking to the daily routine of applying it as prescribed. They did report a small rash at the site of the patch for most participants in the initial stages of the study, but it didn’t appear to be enough to deter any of the participants. While all of this is promising, the patch will continue to undergo further testing before going on to large-scale trials and being approved for use with the general public. If you’d like to read more about the study itself, it was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.