Peanut allergies are one of the most common and potentially fatal allergies, especially among children. A seemingly-simple immunotherapy provided at least four years of protection to a large percentage of children with peanut allergies in a new study published in The Lancet. The eight-week course of treatment — swallowing a daily dose of capsule containing a specific probiotic and traces of peanuts — was still working four years later on nearly 70% of the young treatment group, and it worked for a shorter term on an additional 12% of kids treated. Only 4% of the children who didn’t receive immunotherapy grew out of their peanut allergies on their own through regular exposure after four years, although it should be noted that 20% of kids are expected to grow out of peanut allergies by the time they reach adulthood.
The research was conducted by Mimi Tang and her team at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, where they used Lactobacillus rhamnosus bacteria as the probiotic, mixed with traces of peanuts to trigger an immune response in patients. L. rhamnosus is sometimes added as a probiotic to dairy products, and it has been used to treat bacterial vaginosis, as the bacteria can be utilized to “regain control over dysbiotic bacterial overgrowth during an active infection.” Surprisingly, it also allowed 82% of children in the treatment group to eat peanuts without an allergic reaction, and 70% (as previously mentioned) still showed immunity four years later.
One caveat, however: The treatment group was very small. There were only 48 kids in this first trial run, with 24 receiving the probiotic and peanut oral immunotherapy (PPOIT) and 24 in the control group. Studies will have to be successfully conducted on larger groups before this could be widely adopted as a preventative treatment. In the meantime, don’t slather yourself with peanut butter and yell “I’m the peanut butter monster” unless you absolutely have to.