For people with severe peanut allergies, ingesting even one granule of a peanut can send the body reeling.
Peanut exposure sets off a chain reaction in the body’s immune system. The body goes into hyperdrive attack mode, hurting only itself. Hives, itchy mouth and throat, breathing problems and full-on shock take over. These reactions can kill a person in quick order. But what if there was a way to prevent this intense biochemical reaction?
Researchers at Stanford University say a vaccine they’re testing may be the answer. The scientists worked with adults allergic to peanuts. Some of the participants received a vaccine containing an antibody that prevents interleukin 33 from starting the body’s reactive cycle. Interleukin-33 is a molecule that alerts the body to damage or infection.
Other study participants received a placebo injection. After a 15-day wait, each person ate a peanut, with health care providers present in case any of the participants had major problems. Almost 75% of those who received the vaccine had no reaction to eating a peanut. Thirty days later, almost 60% of the vaccine group could still eat a peanut without alarm. No one in the placebo group could safely eat a peanut at either test.
The researchers are planning a larger trial of the vaccine. They also need to determine how much of the antibody to give, and how often. The injection is meant to remove the risk of death from accidental exposure, not to allow allergic people to eat peanuts on purpose.
Peanut allergy sufferers likely will be OK with this. Not risking death from unknowingly eating a tiny bit of peanut seems like a big win all by itself.