Healthbeat

Skin patch tested for peanut allergy relief

Friday, October 11, 2013

For millions of children peanut butter is a beloved lunchtime stable, but for a growing number of others it's a life threatening food.

Deadly peanut allergies are on the rise, but an experimental skin patch being tested around the world and now here in Chicago could finally offer young patients a whole new option.

Hannah saffron is extremely careful about what she puts in her mouth and she has good reason.

"There was this tiny bit of peanut butter in a cookie and I had one bite of it and I had to go to the ER because my throat closed up," she said.

Safron's body can't handle the protein in peanuts. Right now her only defense is avoiding anything to do with peanuts and an EpiPen that can lessen a life threatening reaction if by chance she is exposed.

So why then would she be okay wearing this?

It's a patch possibly containing peanut proteins.

"The idea behind this research is that giving small amounts of peanut protein in safe way through the skin that we might be able to induce what's called tolerance," said Dr. Rachel Robison.

Think of it the same way seasonal allergy shots work. By exposing the body to immensely small amounts of an allergen, over time you might be able to desensitize it.

Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago is part of an international study to see if this works.

For safety reasons it's very carefully controlled.

"It's very small amounts of protein that we can't even measure so we advise people that this is not something to be tried at home," Dr. Robison said.

Will it cure peanut allergies? Probably not, but it could make them less threatening and that would be a huge relief.

"The idea that the patch could either minimize her reaction you know due to an accidental ingestion or completely eliminate it would be in mean fantastic," said Leanne April, Hannah's mother.

Safron will wear a patch every day for a year. It may contain peanut protein or it may not.

That's how the study is designed. Allergy sufferers are hopeful.

"I'm really excited for it, I think it might work," Safron said.

Researchers at Lurie are no longer recruiting patients for this study, but they are about to start recruiting for others studies.

One is for wheat allergies and the other will test giving small amounts of peanut by mouth.

For more information: www.luriechildrens.org/en-us/care-services/find-a-doctor/Pages/detail.aspx?DoctorID=885

Info on Study:
http://www.luriechildrensresearch.org/allergy/

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