A new skin patch could help kids develop immunity and tolerance to peanuts. According to the researchers, nearly half of the children, who participated in the year-long trial, were able to consume 10 times more peanut protein than they could at the start of the study.
A tiny wearable skin patch could soon be the answer to the deadly reactions that millions of kids suffer, after being exposed to mere trace amounts of peanut protein. Although the study, and immunotherapy treatment that the peanut patch relies on, needs to be further explored and corroborated, the wearable patches could be a reliable solution for millions of children who are allergic to peanuts.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, states that the children’s immunity could be taught to work against peanut allergy. It relies on the well-known, but yet to be widely medically corroborated fact that the best way to treat peanut allergy is to expose children to small doses of peanuts right from their infanthood.
According to study author Dr. Marshall Plaut, the new approach “looks promising and has potential.” Dr. Plaut is chief of the food allergy, atopic dermatitis and allergic mechanisms section at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Plaut’s research team tested 74 volunteers with the new Viaskin peanut patch. All the children and young adults, aged 4 to 25, who participated in the trials, were allergic to peanuts, reported U.S. News.
The Viaskin peanut patch essentially contains varying doses of peanut protein. When worn on the skin, it gradually releases the protein through the epidermis. The therapy relies on the belief that the immune system can be taught or programed to gradually develop a tolerance to peanuts. According to Dr. Daniel Rotrosen, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, which is funding the ongoing clinical trial, such experiments have been conducted before,
“Other recent advances have relied on an oral route that appears difficult for approximately 10 to 15 percent of children and adults to tolerate.”
During this trial, the volunteers were randomly selected to wear either a high-dose patch (250 micrograms), a low-dose patch (100 micrograms) or a placebo patch. These tiny patches had to be stuck either on the arm or between their shoulder blades. The patches were to be replaced daily. After 365 days, the researchers tested how well the participants were able to resist strong allergic reaction to peanuts.
Essentially, the researchers also tested if the patches were able to develop immunity and help the kids eat peanuts. Hence they evaluated whether the participants were able to consume at least 10 times more peanut protein than they could at the study start, under supervision during the allergy challenge, reported CBS News.
The results of the tests were quite promising, if not ground-breaking. About 46 percent of participants who wore the low-dose patch, and 48 percent within the high-dose group could consume the amount of peanut protein with no noticeable allergic reaction. Interestingly, about 12 percent of those from the placebo group developed resistance as well.
Despite a few cases of mild skin reactions, the Viaskin peanut allergy patch has proved to be “promising” and “potentially effective.” Moreover, the research indicated the patch was the most effective on children ages 4 to 11, and significantly less effective on older participants, reported CNN.
Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, which is the essential defense against allergic reactions from peanuts, has increased the price of the epinephrine auto-injectors by more than 500 percent in the last few years. Though competitors like Auvi-Q are being promised as cheaper alternatives to EpiPen, solutions like a wearable skin patch that could develop immunity against peanuts is certainly something parents of these children can look forward to.
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