Peanut allergy trials

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Just a mouthful of plain rice from a food court could have killed 4 year old Ella Frydman -- her mum Andrea believes the rice had somehow been cross contaminated by peanut or peanut oil, to which Ella is allergic.

“We found out Ella had a peanut allergy when she was about one, she touched my Mum's toast. My Mum was having peanut butter on toast and right up until that point, I thought she might have had allergies because she had terrible eczema”, Andrea said.

“The cause of peanut allergy remains unknown -- there are so many researchers trying to understand what causes food allergy or peanut allergy and if we could answer that question we could certainly then switch it off”, said
Associate Professor Mimi Tang.

Professor Tang is head of allergy research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne and is conducting a placebo based trial designed to desensitise children allergic to peanuts. Under hospital supervision, sufferers like Ella are given increasing doses of peanut protein, together with a probiotic bacteria, to enhance tolerance and retrain the IR immune systems. “What we're doing by combining the probiotic LGG together with the peanut protein, we're hoping to actually completely switch off the immune system recognising peanut ��" we’re hoping for a cure”, Professor Tang said.

It is a therapy that's already proved successful in Britain, where 20 once allergic children can now safely eat up to 12 peanuts a day -- still there’s a catch “Once you stop the treatment you are still left with your peanut allergy. So what we're hoping to achieve, is to add an additional product, together with the peanut oral immunotherapy -- we're going to add in a probiotic treatment which hopefully will modulate the immune system and induce a long term cure. Ultimately we're hoping that when we stop our treatments, the patients will be cured of their peanut allergy not just desensitised”, Professor Tang said.

Danielle King's 6 year old daughter Emily is taking part in the trial, hoping that one day she can discard her lifesaving adrenaline injection pen. “She gets watery eyes, a red blotchy face, she starts vomiting and then she starts getting asthma and has trouble breathing. When she has trouble breathing that’s when you give her the Eippen because that’s when her throat is closing up”, Danielle said.

Peanut anaphylaxis has killed three young people in the past two 2 years and there's evidence that food allergy in general is on the increase -- shellfish, milk, wheat, egg, soy and fish are the most common. “If our trial’s successful we think it will make a huge difference to these children and hopefully in the future as the trial is rolled out into an adult setting, adults with peanut allergy”, Professor Tang said.

Professor Tang is looking for another 70 children aged between 1 and 10 to participate in her trial.

To find out more, please contact:
Research Nurses
Allergy and Immune Disorders Group
Tel: 03 9345 6774 or email peanut.study@mcri.edu.au

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