Peanuts: Delicious for some of us. Deadly for others.
Peanut allergies, one of the most common food allergies in the world, are extremely dangerous — especially for kids, who are more likely to suffer serious reactions than adults. Even exposure to trace amounts of peanut or peanut oil can pose a major risk, which means a lot of kids have to steer clear of more than just PB&J — even foods like icing, potato chips, and some fried foods can contain elements of peanuts. It can be hard for people with these severe allergies to live a normal life.
In fact, peanut allergies have been on the rise for years. That's why a lot of schools in the United States don't even allow things like peanuts or peanut butter inside the school anymore, let alone at a shared lunch table.
While a lot of us have been arguing over whether that's fair (or helpful), scientists have been working hard to figure out how to better treat this and other food allergies or how to stop them completely.
The good news? Scientists Down Under just had a major breakthrough in treating peanut allergies.
Researchers at Australia's Murdoch Children's Research Institute used something called immunotherapy on a small group of kids with peanut allergies.
In immunotherapy, patients can be intentionally exposed in deliberate, controlled doses of something (in this case, peanuts) that creates an autoimmune response. Over time and with the right treatment, the body can sometimes learn to adjust the way it reacts to the allergen.
In other words, these researchers fought peanuts with peanuts.
At the end of the 18-month trial, which originally took place in 2013, over 80% of the kids who received the treatment had become tolerant to peanuts. Four years later, most of them are still tolerant and even eating peanuts regularly.
“The way I see it is that we had children who came into the study allergic to peanuts, having to avoid peanuts in their diet, being very vigilant around that, carrying a lot of anxiety with that," lead research Mimi Tang told The Guardian. "At the end of treatment and even four years later, many of these children who had benefited from our probiotic peanut therapy could now live like a child who didn’t have a peanut allergy.”
Before anyone goes and starts small-dosing their children with peanuts, remember: There's a lot of work still to be done.
This was a small trial and first needs to be replicated on a larger scale. Even then, it may be a while before the therapy becomes a logical treatment option for kids with peanut allergies.
But this is still a huge win for science and must come as a ray of hope for many parents out there. With the number of kids in the United States with peanut allergies closing in on 2%, we're long overdue for some good news for the families affected by this.
Nutter Butters all around!