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Early treatment may help relieve peanut allergies in young children, study finds

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Early treatment may help relieve peanut allergies in young children, study finds

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NEW YORK — Young children could overcome their peanut allergies if treated at an early enough age, according to a study released Thursday.

Researchers gave increasing amounts of peanut protein powder to a group of toddlers to build their peanut tolerance. After 2.5 years, nearly three-quarters could tolerate the equivalent of 16 peanuts without an allergic reaction. Six months after stopping treatment, a fifth still had the same tolerance.

The approach appears to work best in younger children and those with milder allergies, the researchers reported Thursday in the journal Lancet.

The findings suggest there is “a window of opportunity” early in life when treatment could have a lasting impact, said University of Arkansas study co-author Dr Stacie Jones. for medical services. But she said more research was needed to determine how long the effect might last.

A treatment for peanut allergies already exists, but it’s only approved for children 4 years and older, and the protection it offers is from accidental exposure to small amounts of peanuts. Children are still supposed to avoid eating the nuts and carry an EpiPen or other medication for allergic reactions. He also uses peanut powder, but when the children stop taking the treatment, the protection stops.

Jones and his colleagues tested a similar approach on younger children to see if their immune systems could be altered if treated at an earlier age. She helped lead a study for the current treatment, Aimmune Therapeutics’ Palforzia, and served as a consultant for the company.

In the United States, about 2% of children suffer from peanut allergies, which can cause serious reactions and be a constant source of concern for parents. Some children overcome the allergy, but most must continue to avoid peanuts for life. To prevent allergies from developing, health experts in recent years have encouraged parents to feed babies foods containing peanuts early on.

The new government-funded study involved 146 children in the United States aged 1 to 3. They were given daily doses of peanut powder mixed with food or a dummy powder – oatmeal. At the end of treatment, 71% of those who received the peanut powder could tolerate the equivalent of 16 peanuts. Six months later, 21% still could. In the dummy powder comparison group, 2% could tolerate 16 peanuts at the end of treatment and six months later.

Most children had a reaction during treatment, mostly mild to moderate. Some in the peanut group required treatment with an EpiPen.

The research “really confirms something we’ve thought for a while in the field,” said Dr. Joyce Hsu, an allergy specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the study. “Children’s immune systems are generally more malleable when they are younger.”

Hsu’s clinic offers peanut protein allergy treatment for children 4 months and older. As with Palforzia, Hsu noted that it’s meant to protect against accidental ingestion and that children are always supposed to avoid peanuts. She said there was a lack of solid data on the treatment of peanut allergies in infants and very young children.

In a commentary published with the study, other allergy experts noted the wide availability of the peanut powder used in the study. They said the treatment is a reasonable option ready for real-world implementation under the guidance of an allergy specialist.

Dr. John Kelso, an allergy specialist at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, said the results should give doctors more confidence to try the treatment for toddlers and offer it to parents. But he noted that it’s still unclear whether a tolerance would have a limit or how it might change over time.

“You still have to be careful before considering this as a cure,” he said.

Early treatment may help relieve peanut allergies in young children, study finds

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