New Hope for Peanut Allergy Relief in Children | Health info
By By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter, health day reporter
TUESDAY, May 31, 2022 (HealthDay News) — For families of children with peanut allergies, there may be some hope. The researchers say they are working on a treatment that can create immune system changes that put children into remission from their allergy.
A parent of a child who took part in an allergy trial in Australia said his 9-year-old daughter, Stella, had been in remission for almost four years and regularly ate peanuts. (Managing a food allergy requires avoiding food).
“Stella’s quality of life has improved significantly since the trial,” said her mother, Ju Lee Ng.
Stella no longer has to always check food labels for peanuts. Her level of freedom increased and her anxiety dropped dramatically, her mother reported.
“We previously had to avoid traveling to countries that use a lot of peanuts in food, including Malaysia, where my husband and I are from,” Ng said. “Shortly after Stella achieved remission, we were so excited to be able to travel on a family vacation to Thailand. We tried local dishes and had an amazing vacation without the stress that Stella might have an allergic reaction.”
Led by researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and the Telethon Kids Institute in Australia, the study showed that gene networks are rewired after a combination treatment of a probiotic and oral immunotherapy with peanut base (gradual introduction of the allergenic food). The reprogramming appears to shut down the allergic immune response that caused the food allergy.
“The immunological changes leading to peanut allergy remission were largely unknown,” said lead researcher Mimi Tang, professor of allergy and immunology at Murdoch Children’s.
Previous studies had mainly focused on examining gene expression levels, but had not explored how genes interact with each other. It made sense to examine the communication between genes, the researchers said.
“What we found were profound differences in patterns of network connectivity between children with allergies and those in remission,” Tang said in a press release from the institute. “These same changes were also seen when we compared gene networks before and after immunotherapy in children who achieved remission after immunotherapy.”
Food allergies affect approximately 10% of infants and 5% to 8% of children worldwide.
For this study, the researchers worked with 62 peanut-allergic children aged 1 to 10 years. The children were randomized to receive treatment with a probiotic with a gradual introduction of peanut immunotherapy or a placebo for 18 months.
About 74% of people who received the combination treatment achieved remission of their allergy. About 4% of people in the placebo group also achieved remission.
A separate trial found that peanut immunotherapy alone was also highly effective in inducing remission and desensitization. In this, about half of the children achieved remission.
The study was published May 25 in the journal Allergy.
This approach, however, is still far from prime time. Desensitization often waned after treatment ended or even during ongoing maintenance dosing, said co-author Sarah Ashley, researcher at Murdoch Children.
“Certain changes in allergen-specific immune cells, called Th2 cells, are essential for achieving lasting remission,” Ashley said in the release. “Th2 cells are essential for generating allergen-specific antibodies and the development of food allergy. We found that Th2 signaling that drives allergy is ‘turned off’ in children in remission.”
Ng said it was reassuring to learn that new treatments could be developed based on the latest study results.
“This research will give a lot of hope to families who have children with peanut allergies,” Ng said in the statement. “We hope other families can experience the same sense of comfort we now have with a child who can freely eat peanuts without fear of a reaction.”
The trial used allergy immunotherapy from Australian biotech company Prota Therapeutics.
The American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology has more on food allergies.
SOURCE: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, press release, May 25, 2022
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