A Melbourne-based study has already transformed the lives of many of the children who took part in the clinical trial.
Researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute gave about 30 allergic children a daily dose of peanut protein together with a probiotic in an increasing amount over an 18-month period.
The probiotic used in the study was Lactobacillus rhamnosus and the dose was equivalent to eating about 20kg of yoghurt each day. At the end of the trial 80% of the children could eat peanuts without any reaction.
“Many of the children and families believe it has changed their lives, they’re very happy, they feel relieved,” said the lead researcher, Mimi Tang. “These findings provide the first vital step towards developing a cure for peanut allergy and possibly other food allergies.”
“We focused on peanut allergy because it is usually lifelong and it is the most common cause of death from food anaphylaxis,” Tang said.
Further research is now required to confirm whether patients can still tolerate peanuts in the years to come. “We will be conducting a follow-up study where we ask children to take peanut back out of their diet for eight weeks and test them if they’re tolerant after that.”
Tang warned against trying the treatment at home. “Some families might be thinking about trialling this at home and we would strongly advise against this. In our trial some children did experience allergic reactions, sometimes serious reactions.
“For the moment this treatment can only be taken under the supervision of doctors as part of a clinical trial.”