Allergies are not fun. But for those with peanut allergies, relief may be one step closer.
Australia has some of the highest rates of food allergy in the world, with peanuts ranking as the one of the most common allergens. For the 2 in every 100 Australian adults (or 1 in 20 kids) with a peanut allergy, a small patch might be the solution to their problems.
DBV Technologies, a French biopharmaceutical company, have developed a patch that lessens the severity of allergic reactions to peanuts. In their latest research, presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology conference, they showed how 83% of children aged 6-11 who participated in the patch trial for three years could now consume 1000 milligrams of peanut without an allergic reaction.
While that’s still less than half a peanut, it’s still 10 times more peanut then participants could consume prior to the trial.
Past attempts to lessen the severity of allergic reactions have used the desensitization method. That is, having food allergy sufferers eat tiny amounts of their allergen, slowly increasingly the amount they can tolerate.
The DBV technologies patch works a bit differently. Instead of participants consuming their allergen, they absorb it through their skin in what is called “epicutaneous immunotherapy”. That’s a fancy way of saying the patch treats your immune system by applying something to your skin.
The benefit of exposing a person to peanuts this way (rather than through consumption) is so that the peanut allergen bypasses the bloodstream. Avoiding the bloodstream avoids an allergic reaction, while still desensitizing the person to peanuts.
Allergies occur when the body’s immune system mistakes a certain type of food for something bad like bacteria or a virus. In response to the “bad” substance, the immune system sends out Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies which are responsible for creating the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Symptoms can range from something mild like hives, to severe reactions like anaphylaxis.
At present there are no cures for allergies, only medications that treat the symptoms of allergic reactions. DBV Technologies began their phase 3 trial in December 2015, the data from which will help move them closer to FDA approval.