According to an update posted on Medscape pediatrics for professionals, a new study shows that if a child who is allergic to peanuts eats a small amount of peanut flour every day it can increase his peanut tolerance. This sounds very similar to principles in vaccine immunology and homeopathy.
Of course, the scientists are not recommending you try this at home: “However encouraging, these results are preliminary and [the technique] should not yet be attempted outside clinical trials,” the researchers write online in the journal Allergy.

In England, where this most recent study was conducted, the children were tested for peanut allergy and then fed peanuts one at a time. The children had an allergic reaction after one peanut, and one child developed anaphylaxis and needed an adrenaline shot.

Each child was given instructions to eat 5 milligrams of peanut flour mixed with yogurt each day, and slowly increasing that over the next six weeks. The theory with immune tolerance is that if the body stops seeing the allergen as “foreign” and starts to “tolerize” to it, that the immune system will stop responding as if it was a threat.

After six weeks, during which time none of the children had any reactions, they were rechallenged with whole peanuts. All of the children could tolerate eating at least 10 peanuts.

That does not mean that they are no longer allergic, noted the researchers. But It may provide a bit of a margin of safety should they accidentally consume a few peanuts.

“We’ve got them to a point where they can safely eat at least 10 whole peanuts. It’s not a permanent cure, but as long as they go on taking a daily dose they should maintain their tolerance.”
Clearly, this trial with your child should be done in a controlled setting with your allergist’s approval and monitoring- but it does signal that there may be hope for those children with serious peanut allergies in the future.

Clark, A. Allergy, online early edition.
News release, Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

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Natalie Geary