Peanut allergy - How to get the body tolerant

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Food allergies are common, but there is still no curative treatment. An attempt is currently underway to cure 20 young people with severe peanut allergies.

Peanut allergies are the most common of all food allergies and the cause of most emergency admissions to hospital. Caroline Nilsson, a paediatrician at Södersjukhuset hospital and researcher at the Department of Clinical Research and Education, Södersjukhuset, has been researching allergies for many years and is leading a new study aiming to find a future cure for peanut allergies.

“Around half of those who arrive at our emergency department with allergic reactions have eaten peanuts. Curative treatment would make a huge difference.”

The study, which is scheduled to finish in 2016, involves 20 young people with severe peanut allergies. During the treatment, the participants are allowed to eat small amounts of peanuts over a long period along with medicine that suppresses the allergic reaction. “When we eat something our bodies are allergic to, a special type of allergy antibody, immunoglobulin E (IgE), prompts certain cells to release histamine, causing an allergic reaction,” says Nilsson.

“The medicine blocks the IgE antibodies and prevents the allergic reaction, which means that the patient is able to be gradually used to peanuts and weaned off their allergy without any great risk of allergic side effects. Lastly, the medicine dosage is scaled down when the body has got used to the peanuts.”

To check whether it is safe to start treatment, researchers test a patient’s current allergy status by taking a blood test and adding peanut. This makes it possible to gauge how the cells involved in the allergy will react in the case of this one patient.

“We are very optimistic about this experimental treatment,” says Nilsson. We have already cured one girl of a severe milk and egg allergy.”

Risk of anaphylactic shock to be identified in advance

A life-threatening allergic response is called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, a condition that can be caused by substances contained in peanuts or a wasp sting, for example. In a new study, researchers at the Centre for Allergy Research are trying to identify new biomarkers – measurable substances – for anaphylaxis, so that those at risk of anaphylactic shock can be identified in advance.

The anaphylaxis project

It’s important to taste food at an early age to avoid developing allergies to it

Magnus Wickman, doctor and professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, commenting on a British study which shows that babies that eat peanut snacks during their first 11 months of life are much less likely to develop a peanut allergy. Source: