Parents with children who suffer from the potentially fatal peanut allergy may soon be able to stop scanning every food label for the dreaded warning, 'may contain nuts'.
A small study which gradually exposed children to increasing amounts of peanuts, thereby building up their tolerance, has proved so successful that a huge £1 million pound, three-year study has been launched in the hope that a cure may be around the corner.
1.8% of children in the UK suffer from peanut allergy. and symptoms range from stomach upsets, vomiting and rashes, to potentially fatal anaphylaxis, whereby the airways swell causing breathing difficulties.
Exposure to even tiny amounts of peanuts can cause a reaction so parents have to be extremely vigilant. As well as double-checking all food labels at home, they also have to make sure that the school and friends' parents are aware of the dangers.
By gradually introducing tiny amounts of peanut flour, in the trial study, 21 out of the 23 patients were eventually able to safely consume over 30 peanuts.
Even if this doesn't yet constitute a 'cure', it would still be a life-changing development for those who feel at times that their lives are dominated by the condition.
Dr Andrew Clark, from the research team conducting the study said, "This is going to be the largest trial of its kind in the world and it should give us a definitive idea of whether the approach works and whether it's safe,"
Although the theory behind the trial is a simple one, doctors strongly warn against anyone attempting to copy the trials at home.
They hope that this study will lead to an effective treatment being be available in two to three years.
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