New hope for peanut allergy management in children

17 May 2018
Food Allergy

Researchers at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead are developing a safer way to reduce allergic responses to peanuts in children. 

The new trial, led by Professor Dianne Campbell, Head of Allergy & Immunology Research Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, will use peanut doses along with a dietary fibre supplement to train the body to become tolerant to peanut.

“We are interested in trying to develop improved and safer ways of desensitising children to peanut,” Professor Dianne Campbell said.

“Currently oral desensitisation studies have shown short term desensitisation can be achieved in many individuals, but getting more permanent tolerance to peanut has not been possible.  While current management options can be effective, we are optimistic that our trial will introduce a safer way to manage peanut allergies in the future,” Professor Campbell said.

The dietary fibre supplement, which has been modified by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), contains short chain fatty acids (SCFA) designed for gut absorption to build immune tolerance of the child.

15-year-old patient, Emma Mason, is currently undertaking the trial to improve her peanut allergy management, which has been a big part of her life since the age of three. During the trial, Emma visits The Children’s Hospital at Westmead every two weeks where her peanut dosage is increased under careful observation by doctors and nurses. Prior to the trial, Emma’s tolerance to peanut was very low but she is now seeing increased tolerance according to her mother, Margot Mason. 

“When Emma started the OPIA trial six months ago, she started on 5mg of peanut protein and is now eating up to 100mg of peanut protein without any severe reactions. Emma’s tolerance towards peanuts is building which gives her a little more freedom, especially in social situations. It gives us reassurance to know she can enjoy foods without having to overanalyse every ingredient,” said Margot.  

In Australia, peanut allergies affect 3-5% of children and there is no definitive cure but following the outcomes of the OPIA trial, it hopes to bring safer and easier management options for children and their families.   

To find more information on OPIA clinical trial and to express your interest in taking part, head to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead’s website.  

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