British doctors find treatment for peanut allergy; Therapy 'retrains'

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British doctors find treatment for peanut allergy; Therapy ‘retrains’
people’s immune systems

Ottawa Citizen , July 19, 2009
Children suffering from potentially lethal nut allergies have been offered
the hope of leading normal lives for the first time.
Doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge have developed a pioneering
therapy that “retrains” the immune systems of patients with food allergies
so they become desensitized to the food.
Peanut allergies are triggered by part of the immune system known as
antigens that wrongly identify proteins in peanuts as a threat, and cause
the immune system to attack the patient’s body. The symptoms vary from
stomach upset to anaphylactic reactions and breathing difficulties that can
result in death.
The researchers found that if they started by giving children doses of
peanut flour that were lower than the amount required to trigger a reaction,
they could gradually increase the dose. After the four-month treatment with
the peanut flour, the children needed to continue taking peanuts to ensure
their immune system continued to be desensitized, and 20 patients, aged
between five and 17, can now eat 12 peanuts a day.
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