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Children with life-threatening peanut allergies have been successfully treated - by eating peanuts - reports Sky News.
The largest clinical trial of its kind has shown that by eating increasing amounts of peanut protein every day children were able to train their immune systems to tolerate the nuts. By the end of the study 84% were able to eat at least five nuts without suffering an allergic reaction, according to results published in The Lancet medical journal. That would be enough to protect them against accidental exposure to peanuts in food.
Doctors are warning parents that the treatment must be carried out under medical supervision and should not be attempted at home. Dr Andrew Clark, who led the study at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said: "Before treatment children and their parents would check every food label and avoid eating out in restaurants. "Now most of the patients in the trial can safely eat at least five whole peanuts. "The families involved in this study say that it has changed their lives dramatically."
The 99 children in the study started eating tiny amounts of peanut protein. The dose was gradually increased over a period of four to six months. Thomas Baragwanath, 16, said: "The trial has helped me so much. "I don't have to worry when I go out with my friends about what I'm eating and where it's come from. "It has been a massive problem for me since I was a small child and I'm so thankful I'm getting rid of it."
Maureen Jenkins, director of clinical services at Allergy UK said: "The fantastic results of this study exceed expectation. "Peanut allergy is a particularly frightening food allergy, causing constant anxiety of a reaction from peanut traces on surfaces or even in the air. "This is a major step forward in the global quest to manage it."
The doctors will carry out further research before applying for a product licence for the technique. That could take several years, they warn. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust is planning to open a peanut allergy clinic in the meantime. Further information is available at www.cambridge-allergy-therapy.com.