Life-saving protection may be on the horizon for children suffering from peanut allergies. In a session presented Feb. 22 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) in Houston, Texas, researchers announced that a skin patch, known as Viaskin Peanut, safely and effectively reduced allergic reactions to peanut exposure.
According to Food Allergy and Research Education (FARE), the number of peanut allergies among children tripled between 1997 and 2008. Exposure to even trace amounts of peanuts can cause a life-threatening reaction in these children, making the patch’s potential an especially welcome treatment option for peanut-allergy sufferers and their families.
For the international study, which was funded by patch developer DBV Technologies, researchers set out to determine if skin patches that produced controlled doses of peanut proteins would make allergy sufferers more tolerant or immune to allergens in peanuts.
Researchers recruited 221 peanut-allergic people ranging in age from 6 to 55 years for the clinical trial. Of this group, 113 participants were age 12, and 73 were ages 12 to 17. Study sites included the United States, Canada, France, the Netherlands and Poland.
Study participants were randomly assigned to wear patches containing peanut protein in doses of 50 micrograms, 100 micrograms or 250 micrograms, or as a placebo for a year. All were tested before using the patch to determine their reaction threshold.
At the end of the year, findings showed that the 250 microgram patch was most effective. “After one year of therapy, half of the patients treated with the 250 microgram patch tolerated at least 1 gram of peanut protein – about four peanuts – which is 10 times the dose that they tolerated at their entry oral peanut challenge,” first author Hugh A. Sampson, MD, professor of pediatrics at the Ichan School of Medicine and director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai in New York City, said in an AAAAI news release.
That means “they are not going to have to worry about traces of peanut in a package that came from a plant where peanuts were used or minor contamination of food in a restaurant,” Sampson told Today.com.
In addition to being effective, the patch appears to be safe. More than 95 percent of study participants used the patch as directed, and less than 1 percent dropped out due to adverse effects that included flare-ups of eczema. No serious adverse reactions to the treatment were reported.
The “peanut patch” is not yet available to the public. A Phase III clinical trial is still needed before the product can be submitted for consideration by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is hoped that the patch will be available in 2018.