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A pill for peanut allergies?

April 5, 2018 GMT

Pills containing peanut protein can act like a vaccine for the immune system and could reduce the severity of an allergic reaction to peanuts, according to a new research studty.

The goal of the treatment is not to try to cure the allergy, but to train the immune system of an allergic person not to react as severely if exposed to a small amount of peanut. It works by slowly, over time, desensitizing the patient with increasing doses of the allergy-inducing culprit, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

The study is seeking to measure the possible effectiveness of the method was conducted on 29 people between the ages of 4 and 26 in 10 U.S. cities, plus another 26 in a control group.

Each of the group of 29 participants in the study was given an experimental drug containing peanut flour packed in a pill. Those in the control group were given pills containing only oat flour.

During a six-month period, participants receiving the peanut-flour pills were given gradually stronger doses of the powder.

People in both groups were then given a “food challenge,” with exposure to about one and a half peanuts. Among those in the group who had been taking the peanut pills, 79 percent exhibited no reactions to the allergen, ABC News said.

“It’s great to have patients go from managing to tolerate at most the amount of peanut protein in a 10th of a peanut without reacting, to successfully eating the equivalent of between two to four peanuts with nothing more than mild, transient symptoms, if any at all,” said study co-author Dr. A. Wesley Burks, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina.

More and larger studies will be needed before the treatment can be proven to work and submitted for FDA approval.