Unpacking the latest study on early treatment to help ease peanut allergies in young kids

A new study published in the journal Lancet showed that young children might be able to overcome their peanut allergies if treated at an early enough age. While more research is needed to determine how long the impact of the treatment could last - it's a positive sign for parents with kids who suffer from peanut allergy.

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in U.S. children and affects an estimated 0.6% of Americans, and has become more common over time, rising by 21% among children from 2010 to 2017 according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 

To help us unpack this latest peanut allergy research and study, we turned to our Dr. Ron Sunog, Pediatrician and Medical Advisor to Puffworks: 

How does this study compare to the findings from LEAP?

It's similar to LEAP in that it was the same type of study—a randomized controlled trial—and it involved feeding some kids peanut protein and comparing them to a control group that didn't get peanut protein. The difference is, the goal was not to prevent peanut allergy, but to make children who were allergic to peanut able to eat or tolerate peanut without an allergic reaction—basically, cure their allergy. 

Can you help us understand how the kids who participated in this study were screened? 

Many peanut allergic kids were excluded from the study.  All the children were screened before the study and the children included could tolerate on average an exposure of 25 mg of peanut protein, about 1/7th of a peanut.  50% of people with peanut allergy will react to 3 mg, about 1/50th of a peanut.  So, we don’t know if these results apply to the many peanut allergic kids who are sensitive to very small amounts of peanut.

Did the study work? And would this pave the path for a cure for those who suffer from peanut allergy?

The study shows that this sort of treatment was effective for most of the kids in the study and that is a truly great thing! But it's important to note that it was a very small study.  To quote Dr. David Stukus (prominent allergist), "I do not believe this trial should be used as a green light to start OIT [oral immunotherapy] for peanut in all infants or toddlers." And I would agree. Peanut oral immunotherapy that can induce desensitization is important to study - so we can overtime help those with food allergies have less life-threatening reactions,  - but treatment was done once weekly for 134 weeks and there is a risk of reaction with every treatment.  That's a highly stressful weekly event for more than 2 years.

As an avid advocate of early allergen introduction, and most importantly peanut, exposing infants to peanut early as a way to help build up their immune systems before they develop an allergy is always going to be a less stressful path. Prevention is still key and luckily there are products like Puffworks baby Puffs to help make this easier on parents - by simply using food.

To dive deeper into the study or other articles, see links below:

Efficacy and safety of oral immunotherapy in children aged 1–3 years with peanut allergy (the Immune Tolerance Network IMPACT trial): a randomised placebo-controlled study - The Lancet

Early Childhood Treatment Shows Promise To Overcome Peanut Allergy, Researchers Say - Forbes 

Early treatment could help ease peanut allergies in young kids, study says - NBC News

Got a question for Dr. Ron? Let us know! Send all inquiries to info@puffworks.com 

Dr. Ron Sunog earned his MD at Boston University's accelerated six-year medical program, completed his Residency and Chief Residency in pediatrics at Boston City Hospital, and has been in pediatric practice for over thirty years. He is also the author of Eat The Eight: Preventing Food Allergy with Food and the Imperfect Art of Medicine