TUESDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- In peanut-allergic children, incremental doses of peanut protein may gradually modify the immune system and lead to clinical tolerance, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology held March 13 to 17 in Washington, D.C.
Wesley Burks, M.D., and colleagues at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock enrolled 33 peanut-allergic children five years ago for a series of studies, four of which were presented at the meeting.
After initiating oral immunotherapy at doses as small as 1/1,000 of a peanut, the researchers found that the children could ingest the equivalent of up to 15 peanuts per day after eight to 10 months without any adverse reactions. The investigators also found that oral immunotherapy led to significant decreases in many of the biological markers of peanut allergy, such as high levels of peanut-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE).
"If you have it, you're likely allergic, if you don't, you aren't," Burks said in a statement. Study participants generally started with IgE levels greater than 25. "At the end of the study, their peanut IgEs were less than 2 and have remained that way since we stopped the treatment."
Despite evidence of desensitization, Burks cautioned that the preliminary results aren't strong enough for doctors or patients to initiate oral immunotherapy on peanut-allergic children. The studies were sponsored in part by the Gerber Foundation.