Without a doubt, peanut allergy is one of the scariest and most dangerous food allergies that exists. I have cared for both adult and infant patients with peanut allergies, and many have experienced serious anaphylactic (allergic emergency) reactions due to peanut exposure.
The Frustrating Problem
What really frustrated me as an allergy specialist was the lack of options when treating patients allergic to peanuts. The most I could do was write a prescription for an epinephrine injector and tell them to avoid peanut exposure.
The exciting news is that this could be able to change. We are on the brink of a major advancement in peanut allergy treatment.
Researchers at Duke and Johns Hopkins Medical Centers recently published results from a new multi-center study of clinical trials with patients allergic to peanuts. These patients were treated for peanut allergy with sublingual allergy drops or oral peanut allergy powder.
Although this research was carried out with a small sample group, the new data did show some promising findings. After one year of treatment for peanut allergy, the patients treated with sublingual allergy drops were 22X less likely to have a severe reaction to a peanut ingestion. The patients treated with the oral peanut powder were 141X less likely to have an adverse reaction.
This is impressive data! And compared to doing no treatment at all, I believe it is a welcome new approach. It should be noted that although the sublingual drops were less effective than the oral powder, the sublingual drops were safer and had less allergic reactions or need for epinephrine injections.
Interestingly, the researchers found that by measuring a blood test called peanut specific IgG4 they were better able to predict which patients would likely pass the peanut challenge test.
At Mitchell Medical Group
In my practice, I use the state of the art blood test called the UKnow Peanut test. This blood test measures specific proteins that give a more accurate assessment of whether you truly have a dangerous peanut allergy. I wrote a medical article 2 years ago for pediatricians explaining how to interpret this test.
What Can A Patient With Peanut Allergy Do Right Now?
You can get treatment using the oral peanut powder. A Connecticut based colleague of mine, Dr. Jeff Factor, is currently treating his patients using this method. It can be a complicated procedure and patients do have allergic reactions in the desensitization period. But he has successfully protected numerous peanut allergic patients. I admire him for going ahead of other doctors and taking the risks associated with any new procedure, especially one with such high stakes.
As an allergy doctor, I’m excited about the prospect of the sublingual peanut immunotherapy becoming perfected to help patients. As many of you may know, my special expertise has been in sublingual allergy immunotherapy (see my book, Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution) but because the peanut protocols have rarely been implemented outside of clinical studies I have not jumped in yet.
My main advice to peanut allergic patients: hold tight, some great new treatments are just around the corner!