‘Peanut patch’ aims to desensitise those with severe allergy

A new ‘peanut patch’, similar to a sticking plaster, has been developed by DBV Technologies in Paris, France, which will release trace amounts of peanut protein when applied to the skin. Currently being trialled at research centres in France and at Duke University in Durham, NC and the National Jewish Health Centre in Denver, Colorado, the patch is comparable to the nicotine patch which nicotine addicts use to help manage their cravings for cigarettes.

The patch treatment is based on desensitisation, which exposes patients to tiny doses of an allergen to help them develop tolerance without triggering immune system reactions. Conventional desensitisation treatments can be dangerous for patients with food allergies because they are at greater risk of suffering an anaphylactic reaction if the allergen enters the bloodstream. The peanut patch differs because it presents the allergen to the Langerhans cells in the skin, whilst preventing the allergen’s passage through the skin. The Langerhans cells regulate the immune reactions, and the peanut patch can be removed to stop treatment instantly.

However Dr Donald Stark, a clinical allergist at the University of British Columbia says that desensitisation remains a highly experimental therapy, which may not be suitable for the extremely allergic patients who need it most. A desensitisation study in the US in 1996 ended after a child who had been injected with peanut extract suffered a fatal reaction, dying within seconds. The patch may however be suitable for those with a milder peanut allergy.

DBV Technologies is also developing a patch to treat milk allergy.

Source: DBV Technologies

First published in June 2011

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