April 13, 2024
New skin patch for peanut allergies shows promise: ‘this would fill a huge unmet need’

New skin patch for peanut allergies shows promise: ‘this would fill a huge unmet need’

An experimental skin patch may soon allow increased protection for toddlers who are allergic to peanut, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The patch, named Viaskin, is coated with a small amount of peanut protein that is absorbed into the skin and would offer some protection of an accidental peanut bite that so many parents fear at kid birthday parties, cafeterias or play dates.

If additional testing pans out, “this would fill a huge unmet need,” said Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, an allergist at Children’s Hospital Colorado who contributed to the study, told the Associated Press.

There is no cure for food allergies. The estimated number of Americans who are allergic to peanuts is 6.1 million, according to FARE, one of the largest private funders of food allergy research.

About 2% of U.S. children are allergic to peanuts, some so severely than even a tiny amount can cause a life-threatening reaction. Their immune system overreacts to peanut-containing foods, triggering an inflammatory cascade that causes hives, wheezing or worse. Some youngsters outgrow the allergy but most must avoid peanuts for life and carry rescue medicine to stave off a severe reaction if they accidentally ingest some.

In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first treatment to induce tolerance to peanuts -– an “oral immunotherapy” named Palforzia that children ages 4 to 17 consume daily to keep up the protection.

The study, which featured work from dozens of medical doctors in the U.S. and abroad, took samples from 362 toddlers with peanut allergy. The toddlers initially tested to see how high a dose of peanut protein they could tolerate. Then they were randomly assigned to use the Viaskin patch or a lookalike placebo patch every day.

After a year of treatment, they were tested again and about two-thirds of the toddlers who used the real patch could safely ingest more peanuts. One in three of the toddlers who were given the dummy patch also could safely ingest more peanuts, but Greenhawt says it’s likely children who are outgrew the allergy.

Deaths from allergic reactions to any food are not too common, only a few hundred each year per the CDC. But each year there are about 200,000 emergency room visits caused by allergic reactions to food.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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