For many people, especially children, with peanut allergies, simple daily routines such as communal meals can be complicated affairs.
However, scientists in Melbourne, Australia may have found a life-changing treatment that could actually cure even potentially fatal peanut allergies – probiotics.
Researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, a scientific institution that studies allergies in children, tested their theory by giving approximately 30 children with peanut allergies a daily dose of peanut protein combined with a probiotic, in increasing amounts over an 18-month period.
They used the probiotic lactobacillus rhamnosus, in a dose roughly equivalent to eating about 20kg of yoghurt every day. By the end of the trial, 80% of the children participating could eat peanuts without any reaction.
Lead researcher of the project Mimi Tang said, “Many of the children and families believe it has changed their lives, they’re very happy, they feel relieved… These findings provide the first vital step towards developing a cure for peanut allergy and possibly other food allergies.”
Peanut allergies effect many children and adults – approximately three in every one hundred children in Australia suffer from a peanut allergy. The Melbourne study focused on peanut allergies specifically in part because they are the leading cause of death from food anaphylaxis.
Follow-up studies are needed to confirm whether patients can still tolerate peanuts in the years to come, or if the effects of the study were temporary. “We will be conducting a follow-up study where we ask children to take peanut back out of their diet for eight weeks and test them to see if they’re tolerant after that,” Tang said, cautioning against the idea of trying the experiment at home: “Some families might be thinking about trialling this at home and we would strongly advise against this. In our trial some children did experience allergic reactions, sometimes serious reactions.”
Tang urged parents to consider that this trial is only to be conducted under the supervision of doctors, as part of a clinical trial.