Imagine constantly worrying that something you eat is going to cause your throat to swell up or your heart to stop beating. That's the reality that several people with severe peanut allergies have to live with every day of their life.
People with peanut allergies often have their bodies launch out-of-control immune responses against even the tiniest traces of peanut protein. Giving someone with an allergy a bit of peanut butter makes giving a vegan something with cheese on it look like nothing.
But, as it turns out, relief may be on the horizon. According to various reports, scientists have created a new pill that may be able to help stop deadly peanut allergies.
In a phase 3 clinical trial by the pharmaceutical company Aimmune Therapeutics, it was revealed that a gradual and planned exposure to peanut proteins in their most purified form could help train the body to drastically tone down it's reaction to peanuts.
After one year of daily treatment with the company’s peanut protein-filled capsules, currently called AR101, study participants could safely tolerate 30 times more allergen than they could before the trial began.
The trial included 496 children, aged 4 to 17 with allergies so severe that they could not ingest more than 30 milligrams of peanut protein without experiencing moderate to highly dangerous effects. For context, one peanut contains 250 to 350 milligrams of peanut protein. You wouldn't even be able to see that on a teaspoon.
Peanut protein tolerance was tested with a food challenge after the kids were given the pill for 48 consecutive weeks. Children were given increasing doses of peanut protein 20 to 30 minutes apart while being closely monitored. The amount at which their symptoms switched from nonexistent/mild to moderate was considered their safe limit.
Exceeding the researchers’ expectations, 67.2 percent of AR101 patients could tolerate single doses of up to 600 milligrams, or 1,043 milligrams total over no more than 2.5 hours. Only 4 percent of placebo patients achieved this. What's even better is that 50 percent of patients could handle the maximum amount of peanut protein tested, 1,000 milligrams of peanut protein, compared with only 2.4 percent of "handlers" in the placebo group.
The leader of the study Dr A. Wesley Burks said in a statement. “It’s great to have patients go from managing to tolerate at most the amount of peanut protein in a tenth of a peanut without reacting to successfully eating the equivalent of between two to four peanuts with nothing more than mild, transient symptoms if any at all.” This could truly be a game changer.
Currently, patients who received AR101 continue to take pills of varying doses so that their immune systems remain acclimated. For those who were given the placebo, they have now been allowed to take the actual drug. The drug is also being tested on adults too.
If all follow-up tests and future studies go well, AR101 could soon be the first food allergy prevention drug ever approved. Although it may not be able to completely erase a peanut allergy, it makes ordering at your local Chinese a lot easier (plus the whole not dying thing).