A promising treatment for peanut allergy may actually pose risk for serious allergic reactions. Researchers found that giving small amounts of peanuts to children to cure their allergy may put them at risk of anaphylactic shock.

Giving Microdoses Of Peanut Allergen May Increase Risk Of Anaphylaxis

In a new study published in The Lancet on Thursday, researchers found that people who take microdoses of peanut allergen to partly desensitize them over time were three times more likely to suffer from anaphylaxis compared with those who were given placebo.

People with peanut allergies have 7.1 percent risk of suffering from anaphylaxis, which causes the airways to narrow and make breathing difficult.

An analysis of data from 12 trials that involved more than 1,000 participants, however, shows that the risk increases to 22 percent when they were taking drugs containing small amounts of peanut compounds.

The researchers said the reaction could be attributed to the treatment itself and not to accidental exposure to foods.

Food Allergies Are Unpredictable

Oral immunotherapy, which involves feeding an allergic individual increasing amounts of allergen to increase the threshold that triggers allergic reaction, has shown promising results in some trials involving patients with peanut allergy.

Study researcher Derek Chu, from the McMaster University in Ontario, however, said there are differences on how researchers measure outcomes in the controlled environment of a research study and what happens in the real world.

The new study found that some patients experienced allergic reactions to doses of the therapy they already tolerated in the past.

Chu said food allergies can be unpredictable. Catching common cold or taking drugs on an empty stomach can affect how immunotherapies work.

"This protection that you get from going through immunotherapy — that can change every day," Chu said. "That can all change the way your body interacts with the food that you've supposedly been desensitized to."

Chu, who is also allergic to peanuts, said that the findings suggest that more research is needed to treat peanut allergy.

"This is really the first big crack at trying to treat peanut allergy, which is a fundamental milestone, and we should celebrate that," he said. "But like anything else in medicine or technology or life, the first time you do something, it's not necessarily going to be perfect."

Peanut allergy and tree nut allergy currently affect at least 3 million people in the United States.

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