An international team of researchers has found that wearing a peanut patch for 12 months could effectively desensitize toddlers with mild peanut allergies, which means they can tolerate eating small amounts of peanuts without experiencing any allergic symptoms. The patch was tested in a late-stage clinical trial conducted on toddlers aged between 1 to 3 years old in eight countries across the US, Australia, Canada, and Europe.
The trial involved 244 children who wore the skin patch, and two-thirds became desensitized to peanuts, compared to one-third of the 118 toddlers in the placebo group. The trial results have offered immense relief to many families who have children with peanut allergies. Families have indicated that treatments protecting their children against reactions from unintentional peanut exposures would improve their children’s socialization and the quality of life of the children and their families.
Benefits of Peanut Patch
The peanut patch is designed to expose children to small, controlled doses of peanut protein, which is a known allergen, through the skin. Although knowingly exposing allergic children to their allergen may sound risky, emerging evidence suggests that it works. The doses of allergens applied in a skin patch are far lower than doses used for oral immunotherapies, which is a safer alternative for children. The peanut patch is a much simpler alternative to oral immunotherapy, which involves arduous treatment schedules. Results from trials testing oral immunotherapies have been mighty encouraging, but it carries a high risk of serious allergic reactions.
Our understanding of children’s food allergies is rapidly evolving. Researchers suggest that environmental factors, such as low levels of vitamin D, or changes in the gut microbiome as a result of fewer childhood infections, may be causing the rising rates of food allergies in countries like Australia. Children with eczema are more likely to have food allergies, and evidence suggests that this is because they were exposed to allergy-causing foods through the skin before eating them, confusing the body’s immune system into thinking food is harmful.
There is no cure for children who develop a food allergy, and there are no approved therapies for children under four years old. Research shows that about two-thirds of young children do not outgrow their peanut allergy by the age of six. Hence why there is a lot of interest in developing a therapy for children’s food allergies.
If future trials can replicate the study findings, and show that peanut patches are a safe option that fairly balances the risks of a reaction in a few children with the benefits of many more kids being able to tolerate peanuts in small doses, then it could be a game-changer.