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Finally, a cure for peanut allergies

Posting in Food

At long last, it looks like doctors have developed a cure for peanut allergies, a common affliction that can kill.

The treatment is literally nuts.

A medical team at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England fed small and steadily increasing portions of peanut protein to 99 children aged between 7 and 16. After 6 months, almost all of the kids built up resistance and were able to eat at least 5 peanuts without suffering a reaction, New Scientist reported  in a summary of findings from The Lancet.  It described the approach as "oral immunotherapy."

More than half of the youngsters who tolerated 5 peanuts were then able to eat 10.

Five peanuts might not sound like a lot, but the great news for sufferers is that it's "more than they would be likely to encounter in everyday foods," The Independent noted. People with peanut allergies spend inordinate time reading food labels and trying to determine whether a meal or snack contains traces of nuts.

Invisible peanuts used as ingredients can catch them by surprise. Reactions can range from swelling and itching to death, as throat passages can distend shut. Peanut allergies hit about 2 percent of children, and 50 people die from them a year in the U.S., New Scientist said. They can carry on into adulthood and are the most common cause of food allergy fatalities, The Independent claimed. It noted:

Dr Andrew Clark, who led the Cambridge research team along with Dr Pam Ewan, said that the lives of families involved in the study had been changed “dramatically."

The news comes with a warning however: Don't try this at home. New Scientist wrote:

Ewan stresses that the Addenbrooke's regime should not be attempted beyond the controlled environment of a hospital until it has been developed further, such are the acute risks of peanut exposure in those with the allergy. 

There has never been a cure for peanut allergies, according to both stories. For now, people with the condition can at least snack on hope. 

Cover photo is from H. Zell via Wikimedia

— By on January 30, 2014, 5:23 AM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure