Scientists in Australia confirmed that an immune-based treatment helped kids who are allergic to peanuts eat them without suffering from any reactions for four years.
The researchers followed up on children who had participated in an earlier immunotherapy treatment, which used a combination of probiotics and small doses of peanuts to gradually train the patients’ immune systems to accept the peanut allergen rather than identify it as a foreign substance.
Previous studies have suggested that such methods could prove effective in tempering allergic reactions to peanuts, TIME reports. Severe peanut allergies can cause dangerous anaphylactic shock. The probiotics are supposedly to enhance the stomach’s ability to accept peanuts instead of triggering an immune reaction. The Australians reported that 82% of the kids receiving the combination therapy saw a reduction in their peanut allergy reactions.
In the follow-up study, 67% of those who took the combination treatment were still able to eat peanuts without experiencing a reaction. Fewer kids in the group also showed less severe reactions to skin prick tests using the peanut allergen.
Dr. Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn, an associate professor of pediatrics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital who was not involved in the study, said that it may be too early to call this a cure. She said that in the use of probiotics, the researchers did not compare the effects of the probiotics alone. They only compared those who received probiotics in combination with immune therapy.
“I think there is certainly a suggestion, but not hard proof, that the probiotics make a difference,” Nowak-Wegrzyn said. “The question for me would be if there is a difference between patients who were treated with [both] immunotherapy [in the form of low doses of peanuts] and probiotics, and those who were treated with just immunotherapy.”
The study was published the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.