More evidence 'peanut patch' can help kids with allergies

Children and young adults who suffer from a peanut allergy may benefit from using a wearable patch that delivers peanut proteins through the skin.

The full study is published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

"To avoid potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, people with peanut allergy must be vigilant about the foods they eat and the environments they enter, which can be very stressful", said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. The ongoing clinical trial, funded by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), tries a different approach - it looks at ways to desensitise allergy sufferers to peanuts.

The investigators assessed each peanut allergy at the beginning of the study, patches were developed for each participant and every day, study participants applied a new patch to their arm or between their shoulder blades.

One year later, researchers evaluated the participants' tolerance for peanut protein - specifically, if they could have at least 10 times more than before the EPIT started (what the study defined as success, according to Plaut). Marshall Plaut, chief of DAIT's Food Allergy, Atopic Dermatitis and Allergic Mechanisms Section, added: "The high adherence to the daily peanut patch regimen suggests that the patch is easy-to-use, convenient and safe".

The treatment, called epicutaneous immunotherapy (EPIT), worked just as well as other forms of experimental immunotherapies for allergies, but without needing to rely on oral intake - a form of therapy that's hard for about 10 to 15 per cent of children and adults with peanut allergies.

The Viaskin is not necessarily meant to allow the wearer to enjoy peanuts on a whim, but it may significantly reduce the chances of having a severe allergic reaction to accidental exposures. At the end of the year, the subjects underwent oral allergy challenges to determine the threshold at which they reacted to peanut exposure.

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The treatment was most successful in children younger than 12. Each person was unknowingly given either a 250-mg high-dose patch, a 100-mg low-dose patch, or a placebo. "But I, as both an allergist and a mother of children with peanut allergy, would definitely consider it as an exciting treatment option".

Almost all of the study participants followed the EPIT regimen as directed.

Peanut allergy is a type of food allergy, a condition where the immune system overreacts to a particular protein in that food.

Experts say larger studies are needed before the patch could be approved for wider use.

"The results of this study support further investigation of epicutaneous immunotherapy as a novel approach for peanut allergy treatment".

Separately, the company said in a news release this week that another trial showed benefits three years later in 18 patients who first tested the patches.

  • Marjorie Miles