The first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. A company said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut powder helped children build tolerance in a major study, the AP reports. Doctors have been testing daily doses of peanut, contained in a capsule and sprinkled over food, as a way to prevent reactions by gradually getting children used to very small amounts. California-based Aimmune Therapeutics said 67% of kids who had its experimental treatment were able to tolerate the equivalent of roughly two peanuts at the end of the study, compared to only 4% of others given a dummy powder. The treatment doesn't allow kids to eat peanuts as if they had no allergy, but research suggests that being able to tolerate at least one peanut reduces the risk of a reaction by 95%, an allergy specialist who was involved with the study says.
But a big warning: Don't try this at home. "It's potentially dangerous," says Dr. Stacie Jones, a University of Arkansas allergy specialist. "This is investigational. It has to be done in a very safe setting" to make sure kids can be treated quickly for any bad reactions that occur, she says. The study, whose results have not yet been reviewed by independent experts, involved nearly 500 kids ages 4 to 17 with allergies so severe that they had reactions to as little as a tenth of a peanut. They were given either capsules of peanut or a dummy powder in gradually increasing amounts for six months, then continued on that final level for another six months. Neither the participants nor their doctors knew who was getting what until the study ended. About 20% of kids getting the peanut powder dropped out of the study, 12% due to reactions or other problems. The product showed "overall good safety," Jones says. (Here are two ways parents can lower their child's peanut allergy risk.)