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Peanut allergy may be treated

CHILDREN with severe peanut allergies given small daily doses of peanut flour were able to build tolerance to them, according to a study that suggests it is possible to treat the potentially deadly condition.

The small trial, the first successful program of its kind, aimed at slowly building immunity to peanuts in people with the common allergy, the team at Addenbrooke's Hospital in England said yesterday.

"For all our participants a reaction could lead to life-threatening anaphylactic shock but now we've got them to the point where they can safely eat at least 10 whole peanuts," said Andy Clark, who led the research published in the journal Allergy. "It's not a permanent cure, but as long as they go on taking a daily dose they should maintain their tolerance."

Allergies to peanuts or any other food occur when the body's immune system mistakenly sees compounds from the foods as invaders and creates antibodies to fight them.

Scientists say peanut allergies are on the rise worldwide but nobody knows why. There is no cure and people with the condition must avoid even the tiniest amounts.

Previous attempts to build people's immunity to peanuts caused serious side effects, possibly because they involved injections, researchers said.

At the start of the trial the children were given five milligrams of peanut flour. This was built up over six months to 800 milligrams, equivalent to five whole peanuts.

The researchers said there was no reason why adults with severe allergies could not go on the program.


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