New, larger peanut immunotherapy trial to start at Addenbrooke's Hospital

NHS funding of over £1 million will allow the Addenbrooke’s Hospital (Cambridge) team under Dr Andrew Clark, who carried out the original successful trails with 20 peanut allergic children, to start new, much larger study next month with 104 children. This will be the largest trial of its kind in the world and it should give researchers a definitive idea of whether the treatment works and whether it's safe.

In the earlier trial 23 children were given tiny doses of peanut flour every day, gradually increasing the dose until now they could eat five or more nuts a day. This trial has been running for two years and two of the children, aged 15, have dramatically reduced treatments to just five peanuts a week and yet retained their tolerance.

Previously the children would have risked anaphylactic shock or even death if they accidentally ate even a trace amount of peanut. Earlier attempts at exposing children with peanut allergies to the nuts caused serious reactions. It is thought this treatment has worked because it used small doses of flour, put into yoghurt, which was eaten rather than previous attempts which involved injecting peanut extract or oil.

The families involved in the earlier study say that they have had their lives transformed.

One of the aims of the larger trial is to establish whether, once the initial desensitization is over, it will be possible to withdraw the treatment and maintain long term tolerance.

The news was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

First published in 2010

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