Scientists find new way to stop peanut allergy

In a new study, researchers found that one injection of an antibody treatment let people with severe peanut allergies eat a nut’s worth of peanut protein two weeks later.

The study provides early evidence that the antibody is a safe, effective and rapid food allergy treatment.

The research was led by a team at Stanford University.

About 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies, which can develop at any point in life.

The only existing treatment, oral immunotherapy, requires patients to eat tiny, gradually escalating doses of their food-allergy triggers under medical supervision.

Desensitizing someone to their allergens with oral immunotherapy takes six months to a year, and can cause allergic reactions along the way.

The new antibody treatment, called etokimab, interferes with the action of interleukin-33, an immune-signaling molecule.

IL-33 triggers a cascade of immune-system responses that culminate in allergic reactions.

In someone with a peanut allergy, eating a bite of the legume causes IL-33 to activate a second immune actor, immunoglobin E. IgE is plentiful in those with allergies and fuels various aspects of the allergic response: mouth and throat itchiness, hives, breathing difficulties and anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.

In essence, activating IL-33 in someone with a food allergy is like touching a match to a big pile of tinder.

In the study, the team tested 15 adults with severe peanut allergies who received a single injection of etokimab, while five others, who also had severe peanut allergies, received placebo.

Fifteen days later, participants tried eating a small amount of peanut protein under medical supervision.

In the etokimab group, 73% (11 of 15 people) could eat 275 mg of peanut protein—one nut’s worth—without an allergic reaction; no placebo recipients could do so.

At day 45, 57% (4 of 7 people tested) in the etokimab group passed the food challenge; again, no placebo recipients did so.

The team says this treatment is an option for food allergies is that people did not have to eat the food to get desensitized.

Although this is still in the experimental stages, the team is delivering on the hope of testing a drug that won’t be for one food allergy but for many, and for other allergic diseases, too.

Next, researchers will repeat the study with many more participants and look for biomarkers that identify which individuals could benefit from the antibody treatment.

Scientists also need to determine the appropriate timing and dosing amount of the antibody.

One author of the study is Kari Nadeau, MD, Ph.D., professor of medicine and of pediatrics at Stanford.

The study is published in JCI Insight.

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