A new study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in the January issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggests that a form of immunotherapy may reduce the allergic response to peanuts in adolescents and adults.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) is a treatment performed under strict medical supervision whereby tiny amounts of peanut derivative are placed under the patient’s tongue with the goal of decreasing their sensitivity and response to the allergen over time.
The results are from one of the first randomized, placebo-controlled studies to test the safety and efficacy of SLIT in the treatment of peanut allergy. The study enrolled 40 people with peanut allergy aged 12-37 who were observing a peanut-free diet. After an initial food challenge measuring the amount of allergen each could consume without suffering a reaction, the participants received 44 weeks of daily therapy followed by a second food challenge.
Fourteen of the 20 participants could consume at least ten times the amount of peanut allergen than when they began the study compared with three of the 20 participants given placebo. After 68 weeks of SLIT therapy, participants on average could tolerate significantly more peanut allergen without suffering a reaction. The study also confirmed that SLIT caused only minor side effects such as itching of the mouth.
Though more work is needed, the hope is that SLIT could one day protect peanut allergic individuals from experiencing severe reactions to accidental exposure.
Note: SLIT should only be administered under the guidance of a trained clinician!