TUESDAY, May 31, 2022 (HealthDay News) — There may be some hope for families with children with peanut allergies. Researchers say they are working on a treatment that can induce changes in the immune system that put children into remission of their allergy.
A parent of a child who took part in an allergy study in Australia said their 9-year-old daughter Stella has been in remission for almost four years and eats peanuts regularly. (Dealing with a food allergy requires avoiding the food).
“Stella’s quality of life has improved significantly since the trial,” said her mother, Ju Lee Ng.
Stella no longer has to constantly check food labels for peanuts. Her level of freedom has increased and her anxiety has dropped dramatically, her mother reported.
“Previously, we had to avoid traveling to countries where a lot of peanuts are used in food, including Malaysia, where my husband and I are from,” Ng said. “Shortly after Stella went into remission, we were so excited to be able to travel to Thailand for a family vacation. We sampled local dishes and enjoyed a fantastic holiday without the stress that Stella might have an allergic reaction.”
Led by researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and the Telethon Kids Institute in Australia, the study showed that gene networks are rewired after combination treatment of a probiotic and oral peanut immunotherapy (gradual introduction of the allergenic food). . The reprogramming appears to turn off the allergic immune response that caused the food allergy.
“The immunological changes that led to peanut allergy remission were largely unknown,” said lead researcher Mimi Tang, professor of allergy and immunology at Murdoch Children’s.
Previous studies have mainly focused on examining the levels of gene expression, but have not looked at how genes interact with each other. It makes sense to study the communication between genes, the researchers said.
“What we found were profound differences in network connectivity patterns between children who were allergic and those in remission,” Tang said in a press release from the institute. “The same changes were also observed when we compared the gene networks before and after immunotherapy in the children who achieved remission after immunotherapy.”
Food allergies affect approximately 10% of infants and 5% to 8% of children around the world.
For this study, the researchers worked with 62 peanut-allergic children aged 1 to 10 years. The children were randomized to treatment with a probiotic with gradual introduction of peanut immunotherapy or placebo for 18 months.
About 74% who received the combination treatment achieved remission of their allergy. About 4% of patients in the placebo group also achieved remission.
A separate study found that peanut immunotherapy alone was also highly effective in inducing remission and desensitization. About half of the children achieved remission.
The study was published in the journal on May 25 allergy.
However, this approach is still far from prime time. Desensitization often subsided after treatment was stopped or even during ongoing maintenance dosing, said co-author Sarah Ashley, a Murdoch Children researcher.
“Certain changes in allergen-specific immune cells, known as Th2 cells, are critical to achieving durable remission,” Ashley said in the press release. “Th2 cells are essential for the generation of allergen-specific antibodies and the development of food allergies.
Ng said it was reassuring to learn that new treatments could be developed based on the latest study results.
“This research will bring a lot of hope to families who have children with a peanut allergy,” Ng said in the release. “We hope other families can experience the same comfort that we now have with a child who can eat peanuts without fear of a reaction.”
The study used allergy immunotherapy from Australian biotech company Prota Therapeutics.
The American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology has more on food allergies.
SOURCE: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, press release, May 25, 2022