ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) -- New research out of Australia’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is bringing new hope to parents of children with peanut allergies. The researchers studied 60 children with peanut allergies. They gave half of the children a daily dose of a combination of probiotics and an increasing amount of peanut protein. Researchers increased the amount of peanut protein every two weeks. The probiotic remained a fixed daily dose. The other half of the children were given a placebo. After 18 months of treatment, 80% of the children given the oral immunotherapy treatment of probiotics and peanut proteins were able to tolerate peanuts. In the placebo group, only 4% of the children could do so.
“I read that and was like oh God, this is amazing” says Arlington mother Amy Thomas. Her 9-year-old daughter Noelle was diagnosed with severe peanut allergies at just 10 months old. Amy says she’s constantly worried about her daughter everywhere she goes, including school. And Noelle worries too. “If I sit next to somebody eating peanut butter, I have to move” she says, making it a challenge for her every day during lunch at her school.
Dr. Sally Joo Bailey, an Allergist with Virginia Hospital Center says the study’s results are exciting, particularly in regard to how probiotics may help our immune systems to have more peanut tolerance. But she cautions that longer and larger studies are neededand this is not a cure for peanut allergies. “One thing we do have to be careful about is to find out what happens to these patients a year out from treatment, 2 years and even further,” Dr. Bailey suggests.
Noelle Thomas says living without worrying about her peanut allergies all the time would be life changing. “I could eat more foods and have what other people can have and sit next to my friends,” she says. Her mother says she’s intrigued by the study’s findings and its prospects for her daughter’s future. “We’ve done a lot of things and to me this sounds the most promising of anythingespecially for someone with her severity of peanut allergies,” she says. Amy is going to take Noelle to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center this summer and is hoping her daughter will be able to try an oral immunotherapy treatment they’re studying there.